As the pandemic forces businesses to stay shuttered, bringing uncertainty to the employment of many, the work of the United Way of South Texas has never been more important.
According to Lilly Lopez-Killelea, the nonprofit’s president, United Way of South Texas’ COVID-19 Community Fund has collected $218,000 from multiple donations from several businesses, including Truist Foundation, BDVA Bank Foundation and AEP Texas. The organization also pitched in some funding of its own reserve.
Since the fund opened in March, the nonprofit has distributed about $62,000 of it to support other local nonprofits in Hidalgo and Starr counties, directly aided 3,270 residents affected by COVID-19.
Thus far, 22 organizations have received part of the fund, including the Salvation Army, the American Red Cross and the Hidalgo Youth Center.
The fund has also supported food distributions in Starr County, and local Boys and Girls Clubs, which United Way of South Texas has also donated 15,000 pairs of gloves to.
Lopez-Killelea said as agencies continue to grapple with different needs coming their way, she is appreciative of their efforts to be frugal with the COVID-19 fund.
“We have all had to tighten our belts, but we are very proud of how respectful everyone has been,” she said. “Everyone is being cautious about how they manage their budgets, and they’re really only coming to us when they need something desperately. They know that they don’t want to take something from someone that may need it tomorrow.”
Lopez-Killelea also mentioned that as the pandemic keeps people from leaving their homes, organizations that the nonprofit assists have reported that cases of family abuse have risen.
“Historically, whenever there is unemployment, whenever there are people that are home, that are struggling, you see an increase in both domestic violence and child abuse, as well as abuse of drugs and alcohol,” she said. “They said they are certainly seeing an increase in that right now, because people have lost their jobs and are at home. They have a lot on their plate, so unfortunately, they will take that out on their spouse or child.”
Some of the organizations the COVID-19 Community Fund work with include Mujeres Unidas (Women Together), the Palmer Drug Abuse Program, CASA of Hidalgo County, and the Children’s Advocacy Center.
She added that another reason the nonprofit is doing its best to conserve the fund is to prepare for the looming hurricane season.
“It’s like a perfect storm, because imagine COVID, unemployment and hurricane season,” Lopez-Killelea said. “And so we are trying to be very, very careful about how we invest the community’s funds, so that we can make sure that we all survive this storm.”
Though she is uncertain of how long the community will be facing the challenges that the coronavirus has brought, Lopez-Killelea said residents continue to pitch in and provide relief.
“I think we have a very resilient community here in the Rio Grande Valley,” she said. “And we have seen family after family, company after company, individual after individual from all walks of life really step up. People are really expressing kindness and compassion toward each other.”