The beating heart of York County is the nonprofits that entertain us, uplift us, and ensure the most vulnerable among us have food on their tables and a roof over their heads.
As supporters of the nonprofit sector, it’s our privilege to see their amazing work first-hand. In York County, over 1,000 charitable organizations are touching hundreds of thousands of lives every day, including each of us. These charitable organizations employ thousands of our neighbors and provide additional services that our government alone cannot fully support.
This year has tested their resilience. The pandemic has forced them to furlough staff to preserve cash, redesign building spaces to accommodate safe distancing, revamp programming and find ways to serve those who haven’t needed help before but have been impacted by the economic downturn. While federal and state funding has helped fill some gaps, the demand for services and the lasting economic burdens due to closures is putting in jeopardy the future of these services.
Earlier this year, a survey done by the YOCO Strong Recovery Task Force found that 81 York County nonprofit agencies projected revenue losses of $23 million, 500 lost jobs and 1 million fewer people receiving their services due to the pandemic. That is astounding.
Through all this uncertainty, our nonprofits are rising to the mounting challenges our community faces. Thanks to many generous donors who gave to the York County COVID-19 Response Fund launched by the York County Community Foundation and United Way of York County, over $600,000 has been distributed to nonprofits responding to the crisis. Grants from that fund empowered the York County Food Bank, Catholic Harvest, YMCA of Southern York County, Northeast Neighborhood Association, Mason-Dixon Community Services, Community Reach and York Benevolent Society to feed more than 80,000 York Countians from across York County, many of whom were first time customers. New Hope Ministries, CASA, Community Progress Council, and the Salvation Army are helping families with housing stability and so far, 478 families avoided homelessness thanks to their assistance. The fund is now expanding its focus to ensure school-age childcare centers have the equipment they need to help students with virtual learning. Additional grants will assist emergency shelters with the anticipated increase in demand for crisis housing this winter.
As our community looks to process trauma and uplift their spirits, the arts are needed now more than ever. In national audience studies and local participant surveys, 81% of families reported using creative outlets to improve their mental health and education during the pandemic. To keep people safe, arts and culture nonprofits are committed to delivering their programming in new ways at little to no cost to the community. Through online dance classes at Greater York Dance, virtual History Center museum tours, open-air stage events at DreamWrights Community Center for the Arts, and to-go art kits from Creative York, our arts groups are pivoting to support and heal residents through this crisis even as their organizations face revenue losses and increased costs to do so.
The nonprofit sector makes our community a great place to live for all. In the coming year, many will face cuts in public funding, limited fundraising opportunities, and even tougher decisions than they faced in 2020. Prolonged lack of revenue will result in the loss of critical services, and even the possible closure of some nonprofits.
In this season of giving thanks, we ask you to thank these unsung heroes and consider generously supporting your favorite local nonprofit.
Author Alice Hocker said, “Your greatness is not what you have but what you give.” We know York is filled with greatness. Please let it shine this season.
Jane M. Conover, MSW
President & CEO, York County Community Foundation
President, United Way of York County
President, Cultural Alliance of York County