In what has felt like an instant, the COVID-19 pandemic has completely upended public life in Cambridge and around the world. As our city, normally a buzzing nexus of activity and innovation, has slowed nearly to a halt, our community is jumping into action faster than ever. The crisis has affected our residents in myriad ways, with many facing lost wages, food insecurity, and concerns about their health and wellbeing. But many organizations, groups of residents, and donors are mobilizing to make sure the Cambridge community gets through this difficult time together.
We’ve seen first-hand how our community mobilizes to support those in need during times of crisis. Many of our nonprofit partners have already dug into the front lines, and this month, we’re spotlighting some of their critical work in these uncertain times. And we ask residents who can to please consider donating to our local nonprofits to help them continue vital services at a very challenging time.
We are in awe of how the Cambridge community has stepped up in so many ways these past few weeks. We are grateful to all of you: our indefatigable nonprofits, proactive city officials, generous donors, and countless concerned residents who are rising to the occasion.
Nonprofits, faced with crisis, persist
With the closure of businesses, many of our residents’ sources of income have been disrupted. To cope with this sudden need, a number of organizations around the city are providing emergency access to basic necessities.
- The Friday Café is distributing bagged lunches for community members facing food insecurity during the crisis.
- Food For Free and their partners are actively getting food and household essentials delivered to residents who are at high risk of food insecurity, including seniors, children out of school, and residents in public housing. Food For Free has also teamed up with the City of Cambridge to set up a Community Food Line, ensuring that all of our community has continued access to food. If you’re in need, call 617.349.9155.
- Cradles to Crayons started the Emergency Essentials Fund to help them provide diapers, hygiene kits, school kits, toys, and books to partner organizations for distribution to vulnerable families.
- Community Servings has taken extra precautions to protect our residents as they ramp up their efforts to provide emergency food supplies for Cambridge residents facing food insecurity.
- Heading Home is continuing their vital work for those in our community struggling with homelessness, enacting precautionary steps to slow the spread of illness.
- Though On The Rise has reduced access to their organizational space to slow the spread of the virus, their commitment to empowering women in vulnerable situations remains as they move some of their services online and continue to provide resources.
Senior citizens in every community have felt the pandemic’s effects the strongest. In Cambridge, a number of our partners have dedicated their services to aiding seniors in the variety of new challenges this crisis presents.
- Agassiz Baldwin Community is mobilizing their residential services to help assist seniors in this crisis.
- Somerville-Cambridge Elder Services is delivering food to vulnerable residents, establishing resources to combat loneliness, and switching to virtual services where possible. They also launched a Friendly Phone Call system, which matches older adults who are feeling isolated with an SCES team member or volunteer.
The cancellation of schools has pushed many working families into challenging situations. The loss of educational and recreational programs has left families in Cambridge in need of childcare and activities to educate, entertain, and calm children. Fortunately, our partner organizations have stepped in, providing vital relief for children and parents in our community.
- Playworks has complied a #PlayAtHome resource for parents caring for children affected by the upheavals of social distancing.
- Horizons for Homeless Children is closed for the safety and wellbeing of their community, but they are currently providing families with support to access the basic necessities typically provided by their childcare program, such as diapers, wipes, breakfast, lunch, and snacks.
- Youth on Fire continues to provide vital space for Cambridge youth affected by homelessness, as they take extra safety precautions.
Other nonprofits are continuing their educational and mentoring services virtually and ramping up their supports for students while they’re out of school.
- Enroot is keeping up their mentoring and tutoring for high school and college immigrant students by switching to a virtual setting. They’re also fundraising to financially support their students and their families, many of whom have lost critical income streams during this crisis.
- Science Club for Girls shares dozens of at-home STEM activities, podcasts, videos, and more on their website for youth and families to engage with at home.
- Found in Translation is likewise maintaining its courses via webinars. They also announced a call for applications for their Class of 2020 Language Access Fellowship. Women with low incomes who are fluent in English and another language are invited to apply for the program.
Other nonprofits have organized relief funds for workers facing an unexpected loss of wages.
- Good Bank, one of our 2019 Social Innovation awardees, disperses small loans at zero interest to community members when they’re in need of cash. Good Bank has forgiven all outstanding loans amidst the pandemic. Founder Corinne Espinoza is seeking donations on Venmo to support Good Bank’s ongoing operations.
- Cambridge Community Foundation launched two emergency relief funds for the community: the Cambridge COVID-19 Emergency Fund and Cambridge Artist Relief Fund.
Our arts community is working hard to carry on in the face of venues closing, and we all can benefit from the healing effects of the arts now more than ever.
- Jean Appolon Expressions is conducting Haitian dance tutorials and livestreaming its dance classes on Facebook.
- Shelter Music Boston is providing hardship funds for musicians affected by the crisis, as well as free music on their website for anyone in need of reflection or clarity in these stressful times.
- The Dance Complex started livestreaming classes on social media. Check out their DC Live Classes, chats with our director, and watch performances from the comfort of your home.
- Multicultural Arts Center created a Virtual Gallery of Cambridge Public School students’ artwork. Tour the gallery’s 130 pieces of artwork by young artists in grades K-8 online.
In difficult times, Cambridge neighbors come to each other’s aid. We’re seeing many hyperlocal examples of neighborhoods working together.
- Cambridge Mutual Aid Network is a community-based networks run by volunteers. The network facilitates neighbors helping neighbors, including forum discussions, coordinating volunteer efforts at the neighborhood level, and providing direct financial assistance to neighbors facing hardship.
- Central Square Business Improvement District (BID) swiftly conducted a survey and released a report on how the pandemic is affecting Central Square’s small businesses, which found that 60% of them will not survive eight weeks at the current rate. The BID has also partnered with Cambridge Community Television (CCTV) to start CSQLive!, public programming which allows residents to continue enjoying the Central Square community, virtually.
Our healthcare workers are Cambridge’s first line of defense against this epidemic. As we face shortages of vital protective materials, the Cambridge Health Alliance Foundation has posted these guidelines for community members who want to help. Inman Square small business Gather Here is leading one grassroots effort among community members to handmake cloth face masks (personal protective equipment or PPE) at home and donate them to local health care providers, including Cambridge Health Alliance. Join the movement and learn how to make face masks here.
This is just a sampling of how Cambridge nonprofits are stepping up however they can in the most difficult of times. We ask readers to please consider donating to support these organizations that are the lifeblood of our special community.
Nonprofits, if you’d like to share your organization’s story of hope or thoughts on our city’s response to COVID-19, please reach out to us on Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, or Facebook, or email us at [email protected].
For a list of Cambridge resources for residents and nonprofits, click here.
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