Our biggest campaign yet: Help us raise $1 million in one week for those in need

Today we are launching the most important fundraising campaign in the 161-year history of this newspaper.

The need is unprecedented and it is immediate.

The sky is not falling. It is spring. Birds are singing. There is hope for the future.

But COVID-19 has cast dark shadows over our lives, and has pushed many people to despair. They need help, and they need hope. As a community, we can be part of their recovery.

The goal of the Rapid Relief Fund, organized by the Times Colonist, the Victoria Foundation and the Jawl Foundation, is simple: We want to raise $1 million in one week, with all the money to be put to use in Greater Victoria within days.

> HOW TO DONATE: rapidrelieffund.ca

The first million will go to five organizations: The Mustard Seed Street Church, the Salvation Army’s addictions and rehabilitation centre, the Stan Hagen Centre for Families, the Food Share Network, and the Coalition of Neighbourhood Houses Capital Region.

CHEK Television and the Times Colonist will do all that we can to raise awareness of this vital fund drive.

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After we raise that first million, we will go for another million, and then another. This effort will continue as long as there is a need.

And in the days and weeks ahead, this fund will provide a strong safety net for our entire community.

“Our community is at its finest when we pull together for common cause, when we stick up for those struggling and when we acknowledge that we are in this, and will get through this, together.” Those are the words of Robert Jawl, who inspired this campaign.

It would be impossible to overstate the extent of the social emergency we are facing.

There is a growing pool of people in need, including many we would not normally think of as “the needy,” people who never dreamed they would need help from anyone. They have joined those who already rely on non-profits for support.

All three levels of government are responding well, but they can’t be expected to do everything. We need to take care of our own neighbours. We are all part of one community.

The good news is that we are well on our way to our first goal.

The Jawl family is donating $100,000 to the Rapid Relief Fund.

“As a family, Victoria is our home,” says Robert Jawl. “We have been immeasurably fortunate for the opportunities furnished to us as a result of decisions made to come here by a generation of immigrants nearly 100 years ago.

“We owe so much to this city and in times of most pressing need, it is imperative that we step up.”

The Victoria Foundation is donating $250,000, and is also providing staff time as well as covering any fees associated with the fund’s operation.

Donations will go through the foundation.

“We urge everyone in our community with the means to help to join in this effort,” says Sandra Richardson, CEO of the Victoria Foundation.

“Now, more than ever, the most vulnerable in our community need your support.”

That’s $350,000 so far, with only $650,000 to go. We can do it.

To that end, we are calling on businesses, family foundations, organizations big and small, and individuals to pitch in.

Every donation matters, because the crisis we are facing is almost beyond words.

As we make this request, we are fully aware that you may have already taken a hard hit yourself. Every person in Greater Victoria, rich or poor, will be affected by COVID-19. But that just shows the breadth of the problem.

Those in Victoria with a history of helping have seen their ability to do so diminish even as the need has grown. Greater Victoria is blessed with several agencies that provide help to those in need, but donations to those organizations are drying up. Others are needed to help provide the safety net.

We’re already dealing with psychological and economic damage as businesses close and people, not all of whom have a strong support network, lose their jobs. Then there are those who were already struggling. Imagine what it is like for people with limited mobility, or who have found themselves caring for others.

Lives and livelihoods are at stake. As a community, we can help.

Our goal is to get money to as many of the important groups providing front-line help as possible. As more money comes in, we will spread it to more organizations, because we recognize that there is great need throughout our region.

These five groups will get money from the first million:

• The Mustard Seed Street Church, which provides food hampers to 7,500 people a month. It also serves 2,700 hot lunches and weekend meals to members of the street community.

• The Salvation Army centre on Johnson Street, which serves 1,000 meals a week. Food is expensive and donations have been drying up.

• The Stan Hagen Centre for Families on Quadra Street, which is also run by the Salvation Army, and helps families and individuals in poverty with food programs.

• The Food Services Network, a coalition of more than 70 organizations, which provides healthy-food security and access, primarily with perishable food such as vegetables, fruits, and dairy products.

• The Coalition of Neighbourhood Houses, which includes 10 neighbourhood-based not-for-profit organizations that offer supports and services to children and youth, individuals, families and seniors.

It has been inspiring to see the immediate community response from individuals and organizations over the past week, but more is necessary.

Whether it is funding to campaigns like this for front-line non-profits, supporting our hospital staff, bringing groceries to an elderly neighbour, calling a friend to alleviate the strain of social isolation, or filling one of the innumerable other areas of pressing need, it all counts right now.

Everyone who can help, must help.

Our city is an extraordinary place to live in no small part because of its sense of community, optimism, and perseverance. These attributes will see us rise to this challenge and overcome.

If you can afford to donate, please do so. We need to give hope as quickly as we can.

If you are in crisis, help is on the way.

dobee@timescolonist.com

HOW TO DONATE

Online at rapidrelieffund.ca. Tax receipts will be issued.

Mail a cheque: Send cheques to the Victoria Foundation at #200 – 703 Broughton Street, Victoria, BC, V8W 1E2.

Please ensure they are made out to the Victoria Foundation. Note the ‘Rapid Relief Fund’ in the memo line or in a cover letter. If you are open to receiving your tax receipt by PDF, please include an email address with your donation.

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