The Watertown Community Foundation wanted to thank those who have donated to help out their neighbors during the difficult times cause by the COVID-19 pandemic, and have handed out lawn signs proclaiming “We ♥ Watertown.”
WCF Executive Director Jan Singer said that residents have been very generous donating to the Foundation and the Community Resilience Fund, which was created in March to assist people impacted by the Coronavirus.
“Hundreds of people in Watertown have contributed and we have given out thousands of dollars,” Singer said. “We continue to give emergency rental assistance and to both food pantries. And we are helping to get computers where they need to be and getting (internet) hot spots the places in town they need to be.”
The funds also go to people who have been hospitalized by COVID-19 to make sure they have what they need when the return home, Singer said.
The WCF offered lawn signs to people who have donated, as well as those who have received assistance from the Foundation. They can also be requested.
“If people would like to give us a donation, that would be great, but it is not required,” Singer said. “If anyone one wants one they can email firstname.lastname@example.org.”
A 20 member task force meets weekly to discuss how to distribute the funds from the Community Resilience Fund.
One of the biggest needs is rental assistance. The Community Foundation received some money from the Massachusetts COVID-19 19 Relief Fund, and also uses money from the Community Resilience Fund.
“We are giving $1,000 — it goes directly to the landlord or management company — if someone is over $1,000 in the rears,” Singer said. “The (rent) doesn’t go away, and when all is said and done they still owe the money.”
The Foundation finds out about people and families in need from the Watertown Social Services Resource Specialist, Jenna Willis, as well as from the Metro West Collaborative Development.
The need for rental assistance could grow when the eviction moratorium ends. It is currently due to expire in mid-August, Singer said.
Food also continues to be a need for many during the pandemic. The Foundation provides money to the Watertown Food Pantry and the Catholic Coalition Food Pantry. The Foundation also hand out grocery gift cards.
Some people are reached through the Mutual Aid Network, a collaboration between the WCF and Wayside Youth & Family Support Network
“We hired Sophia (Suarez-Friedman) [to coordinate the Mutual Aid Network],” Singer said. “It is so critical to run that program, the way things are right now. We have extended her funding through the end of the year.”
The WCF is also preparing for the fall. It is not clear what the need will be then, Singer said, with the uncertainty about whether schools will reopen, and/or to what extent.