When illness strikes, or when someone unexpectedly loses a job or has a stay in the hospital, it can put serious financial strains on individuals and families.

It was with those thoughts in mind that the Upper Arlington Community Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to enriching life in the community, established the Good Neighbor Fund.

Although the fund isn't likely to grow as large or distribute grants as large as other UACF programs -- such as those that raised about $1 million to renovate the Amelita Mirolo Barn or to fund student scholarships or community beautification projects -- officials believe it could have a tremendous impact on local lives.

UACF Executive Director Tracy Harbold points to the first Good Neighbor Fund award, given to a local senior citizen the day before Thanksgiving, as a prime example.

"We received an application from a UA senior via our partners, UA Commission on Aging and Syntero," Harbold said. "A UA resident receives Social Security but also has to work part time in order to make ends meet.

"In September, she fell ill and was unable to work for two months. As a result, she fell behind in her rent. She is feeling better and now back to work, but she had no means to catch up the $798 deficit (for) back rent owed."

The UACF used the Good Neighbor Fund to cover the woman's back rent. Harbold and officials at Syntero, a care counseling organization that supports individual health and well-being, hope the award is the first of many that, though relatively small, can be a big help to people in Upper Arlington.

"We have partners that work with the community and help us identify UA residents in need that fit the criteria," Harbold said. "Our current partners are UA police, UA fire, UA Commission on Aging, Syntero, First Community Church and Upper Arlington Lutheran Church.

"The partner helps the applicant fill out the application and then it is submitted."

Harbold said the Good Neighbor Fund helps Upper Arlington residents who "have a unique, unforeseen event happen in their lives that threaten their stability."

The grants are for one-time, emergency assistance.

In order to qualify, applicants must be Upper Arlington residents and show proof of residency. They also must be able to demonstrate need due to a unique unforeseen event such as illness, calamitous event or urgent circumstance that creates a hardship and threatens their ability to meet basic needs, such as housing, transportation to work, medical bills or food insecurity.

"The fund is not large at this time, but we hope encourage people to contribute to it so we can help more residents in need," Harbold said. "At this time, our grant target range is around $1,000.

"As the fund grows, our ability to help with grow as well."

Hollie Goldberg, older adults program director at Syntero, said the fund already has helped one person in need and she looks forward to helping the UACF expand its reach.

"Syntero's social worker conducted home visits to determine the extent of the need and also to explore other ways our organization might be able to assist this community member," Goldberg said. "As part of the home visits, the Syntero social worker obtained the client's written consent so that we could share the pertinent information with the UA Foundation director.

"We were so grateful that the Good Neighbor Fund was able to help in a rapid manner."

Potential Good Neighbor Fund applicants or others with questions about the grant can contact Harbold at harbold@uacommunityfoundation.com.

Anyone who wants to contribute to the fund can do so by sending a check to Upper Arlington Community Foundation Good Neighbor Fund, 3600 Tremont Road, Upper Arlington, Ohio, 43221.

There is also information about the fund and opportunities to donate to it through the UACF's website at uacommunityfoundation.com.

"This fund is helping Upper Arlington residents that need a hand up in a time of crisis, and knowing that we live in a community where people truly care for their neighbor is a wonderful feeling," Harbold said. "I am very proud of this fund and the donors that care enough to give to it as well as the partners that identify those in need.

"When we work together, there is no limit to what we can do."