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Four of Fresno’s most well-known nonprofits have been hit with a double whammy in the COVID-19 era — increased demand and falling donations

Mayor-elect Jerry Dyer announced an effort Thursday to help alleviate the situation. Five anonymous Fresno business leaders have contributed $100,000 each as seed money for a dollar-for-dollar matching program over the next thirty days. The goal is to raise $1 million.

During a news conference at the Central California Food Bank, Dyer said that business leaders are stepping up.

“We want to let (the nonprofits) know that we are going to come together. We’re going to come together as one Fresno,” said Dyer, repeating his campaign theme. “We’re going to do what is necessary to lessen the burden that they are under. We’re going to lessen the burden for those who’ve been impacted by this crisis.”

Demand Up, Donations Down

Representatives of the four nonprofits at the news conference shared similar stories. Demand for services has increased, while fundraising and donations are down.

Andy Souza, president and CEO of the Central California Food Bank, said 30% of recent recipients are new. Distributions have doubled.

“This wasn’t a recession that we gradually moseyed into. This was an instant crisis,” Souza said.

He called the last few weeks the hardest hit the food bank has had during his 10 years with the organization.

“We’re staying above water,” Souza said. “It’s coming at us like a fire hose instead of a garden hose.”

Souza said two fundraising events were canceled in the wake of COVID-19, costing his nonprofit $800,000.

But there is good news ahead. ABC30 is hosting a Feeding Our Families Virtual Telethon on Friday.

All donations will help the food bank. You can donate by testing CCFB to 555888 or click here to donate online.

Left to right: Nicole Linder of the Marjare Mason Center, Andy Souza of the Central California Food Bank, Matthew Pildine of the Fresno Rescue Mission, and Zack Darrah of the Poverello House (GV Wire/David Taub)

Shelters Also Struggling

“It’s going to be a challenge for our regular donors. It’s going to be a challenge for people thinking about giving special gifts that may not give those gifts now because of COVID-19.”Zack Darrah, Poverello House

Zack Darrah, CEO of the Poverello House — a provider of homelessness services — has seen a 300% increase in requests for emergency food bags.

Poverello House has also provided 3,000 more hot meals per week than normal.

He expects fewer donations, even as their workload has increased.

“It’s going to be a challenge for our regular donors. It’s going to be a challenge for people thinking about giving special gifts that may not give those gifts now because of COVID-19,” Darrah said.

Some of the emergency money coming from the state will go to Poverello House to help with more beds.

Fresno Rescue Mission CEO Matthew Pildine says that because of the run on food in grocery stores, they are no longer receiving store donations of day-old bread.

Domestic Violence Concerns

It’s really in those times of quiet that we actually get most nervous. Because for us, we’re thinking there are reasons people aren’t calling.”Nicole Linder, Marjaree Mason Center

Nicole Linder, executive director of the Marjaree Mason Center, says calls to her organization have been like a roller coaster.

The center provides services to domestic violence survivors.

“We originally saw a 30% increase in calls to our hotline. The following week, we saw a dip while the same time the sheriff’s office saw a 50% increase,” Linder said.

Calls for help have increased again.

“It’s really in those times of quiet that we actually get most nervous. Because for us, we’re thinking there are reasons people aren’t calling,” Linder said.

Linder says that even though the courts are for the most part closed, they do remain open for emergency restraining orders.

To reach the Marjaree Mason Center for any need, call 559-233-4357 or email crt@mmcenter.org.

Linder said that canceled fundraisers caused a $300,000 gap, while costs have increased.

The center is spending on employees working remotely, upgrading technology, “and obviously cleaning and making sure that we provide resources to encourage people to stay as confined in their room as possible,” Linder said.

Dyer Praises Donors

Dyer said he was humbled by the anonymous donors’ actions.

“I wish I could say who those business leaders are because, quite frankly, they need to be recognized. But, they have chosen to remain anonymous because that’s who they are,” Dyer said.

Dyer credited Fresno fundraising specialist Terra Brusseau with pitching the idea to business leaders.

Where to Donate

The website to donate is GiveHelpNow.org.

While the four main recipients will be the Central California Food Bank, Poverello House, Fresno Rescue Mission, and the Marjaree Mason Center, any Fresno County nonprofit providing “emergency food, shelter, and services that have been directly impacted by COVID-19” can receive funds, according to the website.

The nonprofit Valley Future Foundation will administer the funds, which will be distributed in May. Brusseau is the group’s nonprofit head.

Dyer pushed the urgency of the fundraising campaign.

“We can’t wait for federal assistance. We can’t wait for states to come to our aid. We have to come together as a community and help these organizations today,” Dyer said.

Dyer said local media will help with free public service announcements on TV, radio, and print.

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