Commonwealth of Virginia Campaign Donations Lag, Just When They’re Needed Most

Commonwealth of Virginia Campaign Donations Lag, Just When They’re Needed Most

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The University of Virginia is more than halfway through the annual Commonwealth of Virginia Campaign, with roughly a month to go before it ends Dec. 20.

As Virginia’s largest workplace giving drive, this campaign plays a critical role in raising funds that are vital to the operation of dozens of local nonprofits, and nearly 1,000 nonprofits throughout the state.

UVA has led statewide participation in the campaign for more than 20 years, collectively raising more than $18 million through faculty and staff donations. However, this year, the CVC is more than a quarter behind in donations compared to this point in the campaign in 2019.

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There are a variety of reasons that may explain the drop in participation, chief of which is that this year’s campaign began in the midst of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. However, it is precisely because of the current circumstances that donations made through the CVC are more important than ever. The pandemic has impacted our community – in ways that are big and small, visible and invisible – forcing individuals to turn to local nonprofits and charities for basic resources and aid. As a result, the demand on many of these organizations has never been greater.

“The CVC provides a wonderful platform to give and provide support right now,” Kevin McDonald, the University’s vice president for diversity, equity, inclusion and community partnerships, said. “UVA has been a strong participant in past years, but the community needs our support now more than ever. Every donation can impact our community in transformative ways.”

UVA Today caught up with members of five local, CVC-listed nonprofits and charities to talk about their work, how it has been impacted by the pandemic, and how donations raised through the CVC make a difference. 

Cultivate Charlottesville focuses on growing and sharing food in gardens at the Charlottesville schools and in low-income and subsidized-housing neighborhoods. (Photo by Ziniu Chen, University Communications)

Cultivate Charlottesville

Aleen Carey, Outreach & Resource Program Director

Q. Can you expand on the work of Cultivate Charlottesville?

A. Cultivate Charlottesville is the integration of three programs – City Schoolyard Garden, Urban Agriculture Collective and Food Justice Network – working to build a healthy and just food system in our city. Our work focuses on growing and sharing food in gardens at the Charlottesville city schools as well as urban farm sites in low-income and subsidized housing neighborhoods and working with city departments to make food access an integral part of the framework of Charlottesville.

Q. How has this work been impacted by COVID-19?

A. Food insecurity has become more pronounced for families who were already grappling with meal access and has grown to include some of our neighbors who are experiencing this for the first time. During school holidays, Cultivate Charlottesville collaborates with community partners to organize meal preparation and distribution for Charlottesville City School students who receive free or reduced meals. As the city works with area health systems to organize free community testing, we coordinate wrap-around services; anyone who tests positive for coronavirus at one of the community testing locations can receive fresh produce, medication, rent relief, diapers, and other essential items from our network of partners.

Q. How can donations through the CVC make a difference?

A. Donating can help impact both short-term and long-term access to fresh and local food in our community. Donations help provide seeds for student and urban gardens, employ our youth food justice interns, underwrite community roundtables, and amplify work for the kind of healthy and just food system we want to have in Charlottesville.

The Haven is a day shelter and housing resource center for people at risk of, or experiencing, homelessness in the Charlottesville area, open every day of the year. (Photo by Ziniu Chen, University Communications)

The Haven

Stephen Hitchcock, Executive Director

Q. Can you tell us a little bit about The Haven?

A. The Haven is a day shelter and housing resource center for people at risk of, or experiencing, homelessness in the greater Charlottesville area. We are open every day of the year, morning to evening, providing respite and basic resources, as well as onsite referrals and an array of housing interventions. No matter the circumstance, we endeavor to help all of our guests successfully navigate the homeless system of care, with the expressed purpose of helping them navigate their way out of homelessness into housing.

Q. How has The Haven been impacted by the pandemic?

A. We provide basic resources – respite, food, showers, laundry, a physical mailing address and computer/phone access – as well as housing assistance for those at risk of, and those experiencing, homelessness in the greater Charlottesville area. To address homelessness through affordable housing remains the goal of all of our services, a goal more crucial than ever during the coronavirus pandemic. Housing is health care.

Q. How can faculty and staff donations help The Haven continue this important work?

A. Donations from the CVC keep our doors open and the lights on! In so doing, those donations provide the necessary space and time and resources for people not only to subsist, but actually resolve their homelessness and reintegrate into the broader Charlottesville community.

Volunteers help distribute food to those seeking food assistance. The Food Bank served 768,263 neighbors from March through August. (Contributed photo)

Blue Ridge Area Food Bank

Abena Foreman-Trice, Media & Community Relations Manager

Q. Can you tell us about the mission of the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank?

A. The Blue Ridge Area Food Bank provides nourishing food to neighbors in need through our far-reaching network of food pantries, soup kitchens, and shelters. We also distribute food through nutrition programs, and health and education programs. 

Q. How has this work been impacted by the pandemic?

A. Since the start of the pandemic, we’ve seen a 24% increase in the number of individuals visiting our partner pantries and program sites. In addition, 19% of visitors since mid-March were new to seeking food assistance. The Food Bank served 768,263 neighbors from March through August.  

Q. How can donations made through the CVC help this work?

A. Financial support goes a long way. The Food Bank is purchasing more food in order to meet new and growing needs for help. We have purchased 4 million pounds of food since mid-March. During the same time period in 2019, we only purchased 1.3 million pounds of food.

The Jefferson School African American Heritage Center celebrates the heritage of the local Black community through interdisciplinary programming. (Photo by Ziniu Chen, University Communications)

Jefferson School African American Heritage Center

Andrea Douglas, Executive Director

Q. Can you expand on the work of the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center?

A. The mission is to celebrate the rich heritage of the Charlottesville-Albemarle African American community and to demonstrate the cultural production of peoples of the African diaspora locally, nationally and internationally. We do this through interdisciplinary programming that includes a historic exhibition, a contemporary gallery, lectures, the Maupintown Film Festival, and public programs. Through our guided tour program and Embracing Our Narrative, our teacher institute, we ensure that local African American history is part of school curriculum.

Q. How has this work been affected by COVID-19?

A. Because we cannot continue to host our events, we have lost significant revenue. Having to host events virtually required us to hire a part-time education curator who has worked tirelessly to coordinate our public programs. Happily, we now have the skills that allow us to continue programming without too many hiccups.

Q. How can donations help this important work?

A. CVC gifts will provide us the opportunity to continue to work as robustly as we have in the past. With the goal of diversifying Charlottesville’s cultural offerings, we created the Cville Players Guild, an actor collective that performs new and well-known works by African American playwrights. We will this summer begin our Eko Ise Music Academy aimed at students 8 to 18 and will educate them about the history and performance of black music. The program will also focus on increasing the number of female sound engineers, a field that is traditionally male-dominated.

The United Way of Greater Charlottesville works one-on-one with families, investing in the personal plans they created to get to the next level of financial stability. (Photo by Ziniu Chen, University Communications)

United Way of Greater Charlottesville

Caroline Emerson, Vice President of Community Engagement and Campaign

Q. How would you describe the work of United Way of Greater Charlottesville?

A. Our vision at the United Way of Greater Charlottesville is for a strong, equitable community where every person can thrive. We work to connect our community, so individuals and families can achieve their potential.

Q. How has this work been impacted by the pandemic?

A. COVID-19 made our financial stability work much, much more urgent. We raised and distributed thousands in emergency funds to help families with rent, utilities, medication and other urgent needs.

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Q. How can donations made through CVC make a difference?

A. We’ll continue to work one-on-one with families, investing in the personal plans they created to get to the next level of financial stability.

Our new Driving Lives Forward program, a partnership with Carter Myers Automotive, helps families who have been unable to access traditional car loans get reliable used vehicles and insurance so they can get to work. We’re providing loans to minority-owned small businesses, and child care centers, because they have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.  These are just a couple of examples of the ways we’re helping individuals, families and small businesses thrive.

Moving forward, we’re focusing on recovery, yes, but we don’t want to just get families back to where they were before the pandemic. Your donation helps make our work possible.

How to Donate Through CVC:

  1. If you want to give, but are unsure where or how, check out full list of local charities and nonprofits in the Charlottesville-Albemarle area. When you’re ready, type the names of any into the ePledge Form.
  2. If you already know the name of the charity or nonprofit you would like to support, type the name into the ePledge Form. If the organization is participating, it will be listed in the drop-down.
  3. If you want to learn about other giving opportunities in Virginia, check out the full list of charities and nonprofits supported by the 2020 CVC.

Media Contact

Shannon Reres

Office of University Communications