Seeing first-hand impact of donations; Rapid Relief Fund passes $5M

Donate online at RapidReliefFund.ca. More options below.  

Sandra Richardson looked down at the little girl coming through the food distribution lineup with her mom at Reynolds Secondary School two weeks ago.

“She said: ‘Today’s my birthday.’ So I wished her a happy birthday. And then her next comment was: ‘But tonight, we have real food.’ I could hardly speak or look at her after that. I thought, my God, this is a reality check,” said Richardson, executive director of the Victoria Foundation.

Richardson went back to her car, realizing she had seen real need in that long lineup of families waiting to receive food.

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But she had also witnessed a real response to that need — thanks to the Rapid Relief Fund. With help from the fund and other community partners, the Greater Victoria School District has been able to extend its school-based lunch program during the COVID-19 crisis to make sure families are still supplied with nutritious food.

“It was a really telling moment,” Richardson said.

“When you can see the impact of the donation first-hand, you realize this is one of the best things we’ve all been part of.”

On Tuesday morning, the fund set up by the Victoria Foundation, the Jawl Foundation and the Times Colonist surpassed

$5 million. More than $3.5 million has already been distributed in the community.

A challenge from Thrifty Foods to match funds received from Sunday to Wednesday up to $100,000 turned their donation into $200,000. That goal was met Tuesday morning, long before the midnight Wednesday deadline.

And Rock for Relief: A Living Room Concert for Vancouver Island, which aired on CHEK Friday night, raised $400,000 for the fund.

“Islanders stood very tall and it was all such positive messaging,” Richardson said. “The non-profits, the charities are absolutely delighted that this is happening in real time. They see the thermometer going up but they are also seeing the grants coming out, so it’s been a wonderful balance.”

Richardson makes a lot of thank-you calls, connecting with people who have given to the fund about why they donate and what Victoria means to them.

She also receives touching notes, like the little ones from children who have emptied their piggy banks.

Then there was Doug DeWolff, a 101-year-old man living in the Comox area, who was thrilled to make a substantial donation to the fund.

“His moment of pride was that he did it online with only a little bit of assistance,” Richardson said. “These are people who really care.”

Reaching the $5-million mark in one month is a good reason to keep going.

“We see no end in sight,” said Rob Janus, director of communications for the Victoria Foundation. “We still have a lot of very generous people out there. Some are donating for the their third and fourth time.

“The crisis is still with us and we haven’t solved all the issues that are affecting people’s lives right now. It’s important we continue the fund and get the money out there.”

The success of the fund drive is yet another example of the community spirit found throughout Vancouver Island — we instinctively come together to help those in need, said Times Colonist editor and publisher Dave Obee.

“We need to keep going. The coronavirus pandemic has created economic hardships which lead to health and social problems, and we should do our best to reduce the impact,” said Obee.

“It’s hard to say how much money we will be able to raise. Before we started the fund, we thought a million in a month would be achievable. At the last moment, we changed the goal, aiming for a million in a week instead. Now, $10 million seems possible. Let’s go for it.”

ldickson@timescolonist.com

HOW TO DONATE

Tax receipts will be issued. If you are open to receiving your tax receipt by PDF, please include an email address with your donation.

• Online: RapidReliefFund.ca

• Phone: 250-381-5532

• Mail: Send cheques (made out to the Victoria Foundation) to RapidRelief Fund, Victoria Foundation, 200-703 Broughton St., Victoria V8W 1E2

The Rapid Relief Fund was created by the Victoria Foundation, the Jawl Foundation, and the Times Colonist to help people in need as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. CHEK Television and Black Press are helping to boost awareness.

Donations are being distributed through the Victoria Foundation.

victoriafoundation.bc.ca/rapid-relief-fund-disbursements

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