JMU in the Community

Helping the helpers

New fund created to help local community members


SUMMARY: The Community Foundation and United Way of Harrisonburg and Rockingham County have created the COVID-19 Community Response Fund to help mitigate challenges facing front-line human services organizations during the COVID-19 pandemic.

By Amanda Christian

Community organizations continue to support vulnerable populations affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, but those organizations—particularly ones that provide food, shelter and financial support—also need help as resources diminish.

The Community Foundation of Harrisonburg-Rockingham and United Way of Harrisonburg and Rockingham County have partnered to create the COVID-19 Community Response Fund to help mitigate challenges facing front-line human services organizations. 

The Community Foundation’s Board of Directors, which includes four JMU faculty and staff members, recognized a need to support organizations providing services in the wake of the pandemic and partnered with the local United Way chapter to provide seed money for the fund.

“In unprecedented times such as these, a collaborative effort to support the most vulnerable members of our community is essential,” said Laura Toni-Holsinger, United Way of Harrisonburg and Rockingham County executive director.

Nonprofit 501(c)3 organizations are encouraged to apply for a COVID-19 Community Response Fund Grant. The first phase of grants consisted of $100,000, which went toward assistance with access to food and safe shelter. Organizations have until April 15 to apply for the second phase of grants.

Among the hardest-hit organizations are homeless shelters, child care programs and food pantries. Essential medicines, food, rent, mortgages and utilities have been identified as potential needs for these groups.

Recently, two anonymous donors have extended a $20,000 challenge to the community—meaning that every dollar raised from the community will be matched up to $20,000 each—potentially raising $80,000 more in relief.

“Charitable giving is at the heart of what The Community Foundation is all about, and the response from our donors and the community at large has been humbling,” said Revlan Hill, executive director of The Community Foundation. “Helping out with essential needs like access to food and shelter is something we all understand and can get behind.”

Four JMU faculty and staff members serve on The Community Foundation's Board of Directors.

“The response from the Harrisonburg-Rockingham community and JMU to the COVID-19 situation demonstrates the kindness and care that makes this such a special place to live and work,” said Donna Harper (’77, ’81M, ’86Ed.S.), vice president for access and enrollment management at JMU and a board member of The Community Foundation. “Supporting and helping our neighbors and colleagues strengthens our resolve to get through this together.”

Other JMU employees on TCF’s board include Dale Hulvey, Kristian Horneber and Jason Fink.

All proceeds raised will go to support recovery efforts. As the situation evolves, the COVID-19 Community Response Fund will remain flexible to ensure the resources are allocated based on the needs of the local community.

“Our goal is to help as many people through local nonprofit organizations as we have funding,” Hill said. “We know that when the community comes together, we can do some pretty remarkable things and that we are always stronger together.”

To contribute to the COVID-19 Community Response Fund, individuals can donate here: For more information and updated news regarding the fund, visit

Back to Top

Published: Thursday, April 16, 2020

Last Updated: Friday, December 4, 2020

Related Articles