Mid-Missouri nonprofits adjust to coronavirus-related needs

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COLUMBIA - If you ask Andrew Grabau, the nonprofit sector was built to help out in times of need.

"This is what nonprofits are always geared up to do," he said. "It's just there's a lot of strain and stress right now because of the volume and the uncertainty."

Grabau is the executive director for Heart of Missouri United Way. 

With the COVID-19 pandemic causing record numbers of unemployment claims and sending the stock market on a roller coaster course, nonprofit budgets have been stretched to their limits. 

John Baker, executive director for Community Foundation of Central Missouri, said many organizations have had to cancel their large annual fundraisers due to social distancing and stay-at-home orders. 

"They're having a really hard time paying for the services they would ordinarily provide, and some of those services have been really stepped up to help with people who have had their incomes stopped because of the pandemic," Baker said. 

In an attempt to address the needs of nonprofits and the community during the outbreak, Community Foundation for Central Missouri, Heart of Missouri United Way, the City of Columbia, Boone County and the Veterans United Foundation have partnered to build a one-stop-shop for individuals and organizations needing help or funding. 

The group made CoMoHelps.org, which has quick links to community resources and an application organizations can use for funding. 

Grabau said his agency is working to fulfill health and human services-related funding requests. 

He said volunteering and donating items is good, but what organizations really need right now is money. 

"Just like in any natural disaster, organizations need to have that financial piece available for them to deliver essential services right now," he said. 

Baker said the group has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars since its founding on March 20, but requests for funding have outpaced donations. 

Baker said leaders from all participating agencies have daily conference calls, and they evaluate which requests are most closely tied to the pandemic. He said funding is not decided on a first-come, first-served basis. 

Some of the approved funding requests so far have paid for food, IT equipment and personal protective equipment. 

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