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November 19, 2021 – The COVID lockdowns were, in many ways, a tale of two crises.  For some, the days were marked by loneliness and isolation – there was nowhere to go, no family to visit, no friends to see.  For others, there was overwhelm – some jobs became more dangerous and required strict new protocols; other jobs disappeared or required employees to work from home; many schools limited their hours or closed, leaving children isolated and parents scrambling to balance it all; the rules changed often, sometimes in ways we really did not understand well.  While nobody could eliminate these challenges, the philanthropic community stepped up and stepped in – in myriad ways to ease the burdens our community faced.  Of course, the individuals responsible for moving our nonprofits in new directions faced these challenges themselves.  And yet, the organizations managed to pivot to new and broader models of services, flexing the strength of their staff, volunteers, and donors to keep their doors (sometimes literally, others figuratively) open wide. It would be impossible to cover the new models of service in one article, but a few key examples can be found below.

Youth across the country and around the world suffered during periods of isolation.  Here in Nevada County, local organizations did all they could to blunt the impact of the sudden and unwanted changes. Bright Futures for Youth partnered with the County to open a learning center at the fairgrounds rallying staff and volunteers to offer a safe space, snacks, and reliable internet to allow children to continue to learn. Child Advocates/CASA volunteers got creative to maintain meaningful connections with their assigned foster youth, whether sending postcards, arranging for delivery of food, assisting with homework, or by making regular calls, they looked for needs and found ways to address them.

Health care organizations also saw unprecedented need paired with challenges in delivery of service.  They not only offered continuity, they expanded the reach of service utilizing new methods of training and technology. One Source volunteers continued to provide support for caregivers while expanding their services to include education on updated safety protocols and the logistics of arranging for vaccines. Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital Foundation made arrangements for supplies likes masks, face shields, scrub caps, sanitizer, and more; coordinated community communications; worked with Nevada County to set up the Whispering Pines clinic for vaccination; and served as the fiscal sponsor for the Nevada County Relief Fund. Citizens for Choice kept the doors of its reproductive health clinic open, providing essential healthcare and reducing the workload and stress of other healthcare providers and institutions. Full Circle of Living and Dying Collective served individuals and families in creating end-of-life care plans while implementing new safety protocols and new methods of training and connecting.

Arts organizations helped us to stay connected, entertained, and mentally healthy. InConcert Sierra provided excellent classical music education programs and free, high-caliber entertainment via zo​om ​and YouTube. Music in the Mountains moved largely to online formats to continue youth and orchestral practices, classes, and free online concerts, which, together reached over 30,000 households in 2020.  The Auburn Symphony created a complete series of videos and resource guides for teachers and students.

Because these organizations were all born of a model of adaptability, always maximizing their resources and flexibility, they grew to meet our changing community needs. To support these hard-working groups and more, visit the CNL Nonprofit Wish List.

This series of articles is provided by the Center for Nonprofit Leadership – itself a 501c3 nonprofit.  CNL strengthens the nonprofit community to fully realize its potential.  We are a resource center for organizations and individuals. Nonprofit staffs and boards, through workshops and networking, are empowered to fulfill their missions and become stronger and more effective.  To learn more visit cnlsierra.org