A local governing body plans to give $12,000 to nonprofits around Foggy Bottom to reach local residents who have struggled financially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Foggy Bottom and West End Advisory Neighborhood Commission’s humanitarian grants special committee is accepting applications for grants until Wednesday to extend community relief to locals around the neighborhood, committee members said. Commissioners said the grants will further the work of nonprofit charity organizations that work directly with vulnerable communities that have been hit by the effects of the pandemic, like residents who have lost their jobs and other community members facing financial stress.
Nonprofit organizations based in Foggy Bottom’s ANC can apply to receive grants to financially support their local community members after outlining how they wish to spend the money, according to the ANC’s website. Commissioner Trupti Patel, the co-founder of the committee, said she hopes the grants will assist the D.C. government and mutual aid organizations in helping struggling residents who have been financially affected by the pandemic.
“We do understand there is great need and not enough resources,” Patel said. “But with the little resources we were allowed to spare from our ANC allotment, we decided to put out a call for applications saying we will be more than glad to dole out grants.”
The ANC’s humanitarian grants special committee was created in March with the initial plans to distribute as much as $15,000 in community aid. Patel said committee members wanted applicants to create ideas for charity work and include them in the application.
“The application has been released, and we are awaiting community benefit organizations to submit their applications to tell us what projects they would like to do to alleviate the pain and suffering within ANC 2A,” she said.
Committee members did not disclose who applied for the grants.
“We have an application where they have to outline the specific use of funds,” Patel said. “The ANC commission as a whole will vote and once the commission has authorized that the recipients are able to receive the grant, we will go ahead and cut the checks for those organizations.”
Patel said there is not a formal process for community members to recommend which organizations receive grants, but she encourages individuals to spread the word about applications to nonprofit organizations they care about.
Commissioner Yannik Omictin, an alum and the other co-founder of the committee, said other ANCs – including those that serve Brightwood Park and the Wharf – already started distributing financial reserves to vulnerable communities, which inspired the idea for the committee in Foggy Bottom. Omictin said commissioners were inclined to help community members after District officials authorized ANCs to grant money to organizations that “replicated state services” during public health emergencies.
Omictin said the ANCs realized the change in regulations meant they could distribute money to residents suffering financially because of the pandemic and he wanted to perform that same activism within Foggy Bottom.
“I think they just saw that provision and decided to take action and use some of the money that they had in reserves to put it towards people who need it the most,” he said. “We wanted to do it in 2A.”
The ANC approved Marina Streznewski, the former president of the Foggy Bottom Association, Christopher Brick, an affiliated faculty member in the history department and local social worker Celina Chelala to serve on the committee alongside Omictin and Patel. Omictin said he nominated the community members with Patel to ensure committee members are dedicated to attend meetings and able to maintain the confidentiality of the applications and discussions.
Omictin said the deadline for applications, which was initially set for last Wednesday, has been extended to this Wednesday to give organizations more opportunities to apply. Omictin estimates the ANC will vote on applications in a public meeting in September and “expeditiously” distribute the funds.
Omictin said the committee will review how nonprofit organizations wish to spend the grant money and will follow up with approved organizations to ensure taxpayer money is being used as intended.
“We will do a follow up after we’ve allocated the money to make sure the money has actually gotten to where it needs to go for the sake of budget transparency and accountability,” Omictin said. “We are using taxpayer money and want to make sure that the money goes to where it should go.”
Jeri Epstein, the chair of the ANC, said she wanted Omictin and Patel to lead the special committee because they have a history of philanthropy and volunteering in Foggy Bottom. She said she hopes the ANC’s funds can reach individuals who may raise smaller donations, as opposed to just larger charities like Miriam’s Kitchen.
“Miriam’s Kitchen gets donations from all across the city – it doesn’t need $1,000 from us,” Epstein said. “But if we were to find somebody who was giving out mittens and hats or wanted to buy mittens and hats for homeless people living on the street — well, we could make a bit of a difference there, no question.”
Zachary Blackburn contributed reporting.