By Dale Martin
November 27, 2020
Several months ago, near the onset on the pandemic, the City Commission provided nearly $300,000 to several local nonprofit agencies in support of their community efforts. Those nonprofit agencies included the Nassau County Council on Aging, Barnabas, the Salvation Army, Starting Point, and Micah’s Place. The funds for the support was not included in the City budget, but drawn from the City’s cash reserves.
When the Coronavirus Air, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act made funds available to municipal governments (indirectly through states and counties) to reimburse local governments for pandemic related expenses, the City Commission made preliminary comments that if such funding were received, it would again be provided to the local nonprofit agencies.
City staff is working with County staff (which is tasked with compiling the voluminous supporting documents needed for processing the requests) to secure the appropriate CARES Act funding. A series of priority tiers of funding has been established, and the support for nonprofits is included in the first priority tier. CARES Act reimbursement for lower tier expenditures is expected to follow later. On behalf of the City Commission and the City of Fernandina Beach, thank you to the County staff for their efforts associated with the CARES Act.
Despite the hopes and beliefs that the pandemic has had a minimal effect on our community, the need for assistance is significant and growing. Crowds (albeit reduced) on Centre Street belie the unseen need of others (and the need of the business owners throughout the City and County). Over the course of the next several weeks, the traditional holiday season beginning with Thanksgiving and concluding with New Year’s Eve, I encourage you to consider your community support.
Fernandina Beach and Amelia Island are, for the most part, relatively affluent. That affluence, however, is not universal. The financial, medical, and mental health challenges associated with the pandemic are also not confirmed to specific neighborhoods. Those challenges are among us.
The efforts of the nonprofits to provide support and “gifts” to those in need are strong, but overwhelming. The requests presented to the nonprofits can be heartrending. When contemplating what you have expressed a desire for during the holiday season, consider some of these requests from our neighbors to area nonprofits.
Fruit cups. Adult diapers. A blanket and a pillow. Socks. A gift certificate to a fast food restaurant. Is eating at such a place, which for many of us is a simple decision on where to get lunch, considered such a fabulous dining experience to others that rarely get out to eat (or perhaps enough to eat)? Many of us spend significantly more for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or evening entertainment with minimal thought. “Dear Santa, I want a gift certificate to McDonald’s.” Thankfully, I never had to ask Santa for that.
Our neighbors need us. They need the support of the area nonprofits that struggle daily to meet the simple but life-sustaining needs. The Council on Aging presses on to provide nearly one thousand meals per week* to eligible seniors. Others need transportation to medical appointments and to shop. Others spend an inordinate amount of their monthly income on medicine and housing. Some, during this time of isolation, simply need conversation.
I implore those who are healthy, able, and willing to find a means to support our community during this difficult time, likely to be all the more difficult due to the loss of the true festiveness and celebration of November and December. Contact a church, a nonprofit, or even simply your own neighbor to find what is needed. Offer your physical support. Offer financial support. In some cases, your emotional and mental support.
Our support should also be extended to our area businesses for holiday purchases. While online purchasing and shipping are routinely easy, please shop locally for gifts and, if necessary, do your own shipping to the family and friends that you will not greet over the holidays. The spending in local stores over the next several weeks make may a critical difference as to what stores are open in February and beyond.
The usual issues that roil us- beaches, waterfronts, garbage, parks- are truly of minimal consequence if we do not tend to our neighbors and community. Throughout the way, that greater need is often overlooked because we are surrounded by goodness, wealth, and beauty that it just as often taken for granted.
This community can provide more than Chicken McNuggets.
*Editor’s note: Corrected from original copy which read “one thousand meals per day.”