Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Mad River Valley Community Fund (MRVCF) has issued a total of $85,000 in grants to 125 families and individuals in the Mad River Valley in the last three weeks. This round of grant funding ranges from $500 to $1,000.
“The intent of this grant was to help people bridge the gap between unemployment benefits and stimulus checks. We are aware that it is taking unemployment checks awhile to get out. Next month we will offer people who have still not received their unemployment benefit to apply for a grant again,” said MRVCF program director Rebecca Baruzzi.
The intent of the MRVCF is to help people through unforeseen hardships and to also help people find a path to sustainability, she noted. For households with more dire needs, people are encouraged to fill out a fuller application so that they can get some help with financial strategies as well as financial assistance.
“Obviously COVID-19 was pretty unforeseen and we have a short application on our website to help get money to households quickly as they wait for other employment, stimulus checks or unemployment benefits,” Baruzzi said.
She said that the community fund is continuing to receive donations, as is the food shelf. Food shelf usage is down significantly, she said, and she and others are concerned that people who may need help are not seeking it.
“There are people in need. We know that. There’s no way all the other food shelves are beyond capacity and ours is underused. The food shelf is now offering deliveries and can handle up to 100 deliveries a week through Free Wheelin’. I’m afraid we’re going to see a whole new demographic of people needing help,” she said.
Of particular concern is the fact that 50 percent of The Valley’s workforce is employed in service sector jobs with an average wage of $13 to $15 an hour coupled with the issue of housing expenses and scarcity in The Valley.
“These things indicate that there is a good amount of our population that lives at the margins,” she said.
“One reason I feel like people are not taking advantage of the help that’s out there is that people feel that others are worse off than they are, or they’re ashamed. We want them to know that we can help,” Baruzzi added.
To encourage people to use the food shelf, organizers have recently begun promoting what they will be bringing to folks with the Free Wheelin’ deliveries.
Susan Bauchner, a food shelf and Mad River Valley Interfaith Council volunteer, said that donations have increased and organizers want to pass the generosity on to the community.
“We want people to accept this assistance. If they do so now, maybe they can spend less at the grocery store and conserve their resources,” Bauchner said.
People are encouraged to call 802-249-3427 between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m., Monday through Friday, and deliveries will be made Monday through Friday between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m.
Here’s what the food shelf will deliver: one box cereal, two tuna fish, one Progresso soup, two other soups, two canned vegetables, two canned pasta, two boxes spaghetti, one jar tomato sauce or two small cans, two mac and cheese, one peanut butter, one jam/jelly, one canned fruit, one can baked beans, one can or package of beans, one box skillet mix, one large juice, one roll toilet paper, and a choice of two meats, coffee or tea, juice, bread and eggs.
To donate to the MRV Food Shelf, make checks payable to MRV Interfaith Council and mail to P.O. Box 342, Waitsfield, VT 05673.