The Westerville Education Foundation wants to help support other nonprofits that are serving Westerville City School District families affected by the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

The foundation, a nonprofit that promotes educational initiatives in the school district, launched the Big Lift on March 18 to help raise $25,000 each for the Westerville Area Resource Ministry, 150 Heatherdown Drive, and Neighborhood Bridges, 124 Hampton Park E.

"(We) created the Big Lift as a way for us to help support organizations working on the front lines during this crisis to help our students and families in our community," said Colleen Moidu, the foundation's executive director.

She said the foundation was inspired by the city of Westerville's announcement of a utility bill "holiday" for April and their request for those who are able to "pay it forward" by donating to a local charity.

After speaking with Westerville schools Superintendent John Kellogg about the work being done to serve district families, Moidu said, WARM and Neighborhood Bridges were selected as beneficiaries, with a goal to raise $25,000 for each organization. The foundation has committed to covering all transaction fees so that 100% of the contributions go directly to the donor's charity of choice, Moidu said.

Emergency requests

Dana Lawrence Forsythe, WARM's director of development and communications, said financial support is most needed.

"Since Ohio started feeling the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic earlier this month, WARM has experienced a 220% growth in requests for emergency food and double the usual number of new clients in the past two weeks, Forsythe said March 21.

"We average 10 emergency food requests per month," she said. "In the first half of March, we had 16 people request emergency food. So we are on target to see 32 people request emergency food this month, up from an average of 10."

Forsythe said emergency food boxes for a small family have a six-day supply of food, with approximately $75 worth of groceries and personal items.

The same box provided to a large family costs approximately $150, she said.

Bridging resources

Rick Bannister, founder and CEO of Neighborhood Bridges, said the organization is experiencing unprecedented activity in its communities throughout central Ohio, including Dublin, Gahanna, Grove City, Hilliard, New Albany, Westerville and Worthington, as well as in the metro Cincinnati area and in Alabama.

Launched in 2017, Neighborhood Bridges is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization with a purpose to create a "Gateway for Kindness," utilizing technology and social media to advocate for children and families in need.

"True to our mission, we are 'bridging' with existing resources in each community and so our efforts are varied in response to need and available resources," Bannister said. "We made the decision at the beginning of this week (March 16) to open our Gateway for Kindness so that anyone can advocate for community members so we can focus our volunteer efforts to support the elderly and homebound.

"We put out a call for volunteers and the response has been amazing," Bannister said. "We are now putting community members to work in picking up groceries, takeout meals from local restaurants, anything that we can do to help others and still observe social distancing. It's kindness delivered to your doorstep."

He said Neighborhood Bridges is thankful for the Big Lift drive and proud to serve as a strategic partner with the education foundation and WARM.

"Together we are serving students/families in a 360-degree approach," Bannister said.

He said the waiving of utility bills in April is not only helpful for residents but also is reinforcing the tone that "we celebrate in this community of 'love thy neighbor,' " Bannister said.

Moidu said the education foundation is looking for ways to serve.

"We are also created a flex-grant program for teachers to submit grant requests outside of our grant cycle for things they may need during this time to support their students' learning," she said. "Parents and community members can also support the classroom activities of individual teachers through our Adopt-a-classroom module."

The module link is available at westervilleeducationfoundation.com, on the left side of the homepage.

Anyone wanting to donate to WARM should go to bit.ly/WEF4WARM.

Donations to Neighborhood Bridges may be made at bit.ly/WEF4Bridges.

mkuhlman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekMarla