Local nonprofits receive $631K in COVID-19 relief grants

35 organizations get additional help to cover pandemic-related shortages.

In a joint effort, the Community Foundation for San Benito County and the San Benito County chapter of United Way awarded a total of $631,230 in COVID-19 Relief Recovery Grant funding to 35 local nonprofits. BenitoLink was selected as one of the recipients.

Of the money awarded, $500,000 came from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act with the remainder coming from donations to the Community Foundation and United Way.

A total of 41 groups applied for assistance, requesting close to $2 million in funds. Tracy Taggart, director of operations and grants for the foundation, said they are still working to help the groups who applied but did not receive funding.

Every applicant had to meet guidelines set by the CARES Act, such as being a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, being able to supply financial statements that show proof of a need, and showing how COVID-19 impacted the organization.

A group of 10 volunteers screened applicants and set grant amounts.

“We had five teams who went over the applications,” said board member Mary Damm of United Way. “Each team had one person from the Community Foundation and one person from United Way. We had to fill out a form telling us who we were with or what our affiliations were, so we would not be looking at any of those applications.”

After getting the teams assigned, the real work began as members dug into the details of each nonprofit.

“We did a deep dive into the process,” Damm said. “We read all the applications and then we spoke to someone from every single organization for clarifications. Like every application, sometimes you get too much information and sometimes you don’t get enough. We wanted to know each organization completely. We needed to know what services they provided, how many people needed those services, and how COVID-19 affected what they could do.”

Other considerations included whether the nonprofits could not hold normal fundraising events, whether they required more staff to continue functioning, or what changes they had to make to their programs.

None of the applicants got their full requests. In some applications, portions of what was requested did not meet the criteria, while others had flaws in their applications that disqualified them completely.

“It took us hours and hours to come to our decisions,” Damm said. “But we were very pleased with how it turned out. We were very proud to be entrusted with the decisions and we took it very seriously.”

YMCA of San Benito County got the largest grant—$75,000—which will be put toward their Excel Beyond the Bell program, which supports distance learning for the children of essential workers.

“The kids are with us all day, for the most part,” Executive Director Mayra Zendejas said. “We open as early as 7:30 a.m. and stay open as late as 5:30 p.m. We provide a clean and safe environment for them as they do their distance learning. Without the grant, we would have been very limited as to the amount of help we could offer the community.”

Chamberlain’s Youth Services in Hollister received $34,890, which will help them stay on track for some of their 2020 goals, said Fund Development and Donor Engagement Manager Denise A. Cauthen-Wright.

“Our annual April fundraiser, Stand Up For Kids, was cancelled due to COVID-19,” Cauthen-Wright said. “Our goal was to raise enough funds to purchase two quality used vans to start replacing our current aging vans used by the school and cottages. The vans are used for most transportation needs such as the children’s doctor and dentist appointments, family visits and transfers, special outings.”

Chamberlain’s will also be using part of the funds to cover their payroll needs resulting from increased staffing on weekdays when the youth housed there would normally be in school.

Though the Community Housing Improvement Systems and Planning Association Inc. (CHISPA) is based in Monterey County, the group qualified for $23,400 in assistance in San Benito County because of its recent developments here, such as Sunrise Senior Housing (49 single units) and Buena Vista Apartments (41 family units).

“There are a lot of things we are trying to accomplish with these developments,” said CHISPA Community Services Manager Ruth Rodriguez, “but we were very limited in what we could do. This allows us to offer increased services and programs for seniors at both of the San Benito locations. We are leveraging the funding to try to get our seniors more engaged. We have food bank deliveries so they don’t have to go out. The YMCA is providing exercise classes and we have an activity room where people can have art classes.”

The San Benito chapter of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) will use the $15,340 it received towards some basics for farmworkers and their families. 

“We had applied for shoes and socks,” said LULAC President Richard Perez, “and then we expanded it to include some mobile phones because we realized a lot of moms and dads were working and needed ways to reach their kids. These families often have only one phone and with distance learning, there might not be a way for working parents to reach their kids or vice versa.”

San Benito Stage Company received $10,000, which board President Derek Barnes said would be used for ongoing costs such as rent and storage of their stage materials. 

“At some point when we are able to go back to normal, we won’t be as stressed financially,” Barnes said. “The foundation did a good job in talking to us about our expenses, things like ‘Have you talked about rent with your landlord?’ But most of our financial burden now is in having a place to keep all the things we’ve acquired all these years. We are grateful for the fact that it will help keep us intact and that we will be able to have theater again when things get back to normal.”

This is the second round of grants issued through the CARES Act, $30 billion in assistance which began distribution on April 30. On Sept. 28, the House of Representatives introduced a proposal for an additional $2.2 trillion in assistance and relief, the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act.

Here is the full list of COVID-19 grant recipients:

  • YMCA of San Benito County—$75,000 to support Excel Beyond the Bell program for child care expenses
  • Emmaus House—$55,805 for emergency shelter operations
  • Sun Street Centers—$50,000 for increased substance abuse response
  • Chamberlain’s Youth Services—$34,890 for cottage transportation vans
  • CASA—$30,262 for recovery and operation to support public health
  • Girls Inc. of the Central Coast—$30,000 in virtual programming
  • San Benito County Arts Council—$30,000 for operation expenses incurred during March-June
  • San Benito County Heritage Foundation—$25,000 for emergency evacuation site operation expenses March-December
  • Old Mission San Juan Bautista—$25,000 for operation expenses March-December
  • CHISPA—$23,400 for operation support and to address urgent food, health and emergency needs
  • Rotary of San Juan Bautista—$22,351 for necessary expenditure due to COVID-19 closing public schools
  • BenitoLink—$22,200 for COVID-19 news coverage and necessary operation support expenses incurred March-December
  • San Benito County LULAC—$15,340 for necessary expenditure due to COVID-19 closing public schools
  • Hollister Downtown Association—$15,000 for operation expenses incurred March-December
  • Hope Services—$14,987 for operational support and distance learning programs
  • Boy Scouts of America Monterey Bay Council—$13,984 for operation support and virtual program development
  • Jovenes de Antaño—$12,000 for necessary expenditures
  • Community Solutions—$11,000 for client assistance and protective supplies to domestic violence victims
  • Jacob’s Heart Children’s Cancer Support Services—$10,000 for necessary expenditure for public health support for the medically fragile and their families
  • San Juan Committee—$10,000 for tourism economic recovery
  • St. Francis Retreat—$10,000 for necessary operations expenses
  • Community Focus Center Operation—$10,000 for expenses incurred March-June
  • San Juan Home and School Club—$10,000 for distance learning expenses
  • The Salvation Army Hollister Corps.—$10,000 for COVID-19 relief and necessary expenditures
  • San Benito Stage Company—$10,000 for operations and COVID-19-related fundraiser loss
  • Sacred Heart Parish School—$10,000 for school reopening and tuition assistance
  • Hollister Methodist Preschool—$8,250 for personal protective equipment and distance learning expenses
  • Hollister Pregnancy Center—$7,761 for COVID-19 response project and public health expenditures
  • Hollister Presbyterian Preschool—$6,000 for personal protective equipment and distance learning expenses
  • Kinship Services—$5,000 for critical support for foster-involved children and families, and emergency supplies to public health
  • Family Service Agency of the Central Coast—$4,300 for suicide crisis hotline and program services
  • San Juan Service Club—$3,500 for expenses incurred due to canceled fundraisers March-June
  • San Benito County Historical Society—$3,500 for operational expenses incurred March-December
  • San Benito County Amateur Radio Association—$2,900 for necessary expenditures
  • Terra Cultura—$2,300 for operation expenses for telecommunications, COVID-19 education and wellness program


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Robert Eliason

I got my start as a photographer when my dad stuck a camera in my hand on the evening of my First Grade Open House. He taught me to observe, empathize, then finally compose the shot.  The editors at BenitoLink first approached me as a photographer. They were the ones to encourage me to write stories about things that interest me, turning me into a reporter as well.  BenitoLink is a great creative family that cares deeply about the San Benito community and I have been pleased to be a part of it.