Inside Aera
Responsibility, Community Apr 16, 2020

Aera donates $355,000 to local nonprofits for COVID-19 relief

Emergency funds help communities meet the pandemic’s growing toll

Volunteers with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Kern County distribute food during the COVID-19 crisis. (Photo: Orlando Trevino)

Volunteers with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Kern County distribute food during the COVID-19 crisis. (Photo: Orlando Trevino)

Aera Energy stepped forward with $355,000 in emergency funding in late March to help six area nonprofits meet the growing community demands of the coronavirus pandemic.

The financial aid means more food and housing assistance, child care, wage replacement, health care and other vital services in the counties where Aera operates.

Receiving Aera’s COVID-19 aid donations were:

The nonprofits applied Aera’s donations to their own COVID-19 relief funds. These were established to respond to increasing community calls for financial assistance as coronavirus control measures began shutting down California’s businesses, schools and jobs.

Kids interact during a homework session at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Kern County in April. (Photo: Orlando Trevino)

Kids interact during a homework session at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Kern County in April. (Photo: Orlando Trevino)

In the case of the Boys & Girls Clubs, Aera’s $100,000 donation was used to launch a new campaign, “Kids Need Care – A Match Made for Our Community.” The funds will provide child care and meal services to children of first responders, healthcare providers and other community personnel deemed essential workers in Kern County, home to Aera’s largest operating area and its headquarters.

“While we plan to continue operating at the highest level possible during these times, we can’t do it on our own,” said Zane Smith, executive director of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Kern County. “I cannot express how grateful we are to Aera Energy for stepping in with immediate support.”

Aera has challenged businesses and individuals to match its donation to the Boys & Girls Clubs.

Addressing ‘significant’ need

Aera’s COVID-19 relief funding for the other five organizations assists residents as well as other charitable organizations which, in turn, provide services to their local communities. Many are rallying to help those who have lost their jobs or were furloughed without pay under the national coronavirus lockdown.

“This money will go straight to vulnerable families and individuals in Fresno and Madera counties who are facing financial hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Lindsay Callahan, president and CEO of the United Way of Fresno and Madera Counties.

In some cases, the nonprofits have provided funding the same day they receive requests.

“The needs are significant, and we are doing all we can to rapidly respond to the wide range of crises caused by the COVID-19 situation,” said Vanessa Bechtel, president and CEO of Ventura County Community Foundation.

With its $50,000 donation from Aera, VCCF created a community challenge to help generate additional funds to meet the COVID-19 crisis. The challenge drew such a strong response that, by April 9, VCCF was able to provide more than $500,000 directly to its nonprofit partners to help them provide food, housing and economic and health-care assistance to the community.

Kern Community Foundation - Growing community. Growing philanthropy.On April 2, Kern Community Foundation made four grants totaling $31,600 from its COVID-19 Relief Fund. Receiving those funds were:

  • A Dream Shared ­ $1,600 to pay monthly expenses for this Bakersfield nonprofit thrift store, which provides a place for adults with disabilities a chance to learn social and job skills;
  • Mountain Communities Family Resource Center $10,000 to provide rental assistance and food and hygiene items to residents of Frazier Park and Lebec;
  • The Salvation Army Citadel Corps ­ $15,000 to provide rental and utility assistance as well as grocery-store gift cards to Bakersfield individuals and families in need;
  • Taft College Foundation ­ $5,000 to provide relief to for student hardships including food, clothing, toiletries, and household essentials; internet services and lost wages because of reduced hours or lay-offs.

Aera urges others to contribute funds in any amount to increase support for nonprofits working to address burgeoning needs arising from the pandemic.

“I invite other California companies to join us in this fight against the biggest health crisis of our time and help our communities in their greatest time of need,” said Christina Sistrunk, Aera’s president and CEO.

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