As the Coronavirus is beginning to hit some areas of the country pretty hard, and those who have not yet felt the full impact are experiencing a sense of foreboding, I am reminded of one of the reasons why I love living in Reno. As a member of this community, I always get a front row seat to see the generosity, compassion, conviction and goodness of our fellow citizens.
Beyond the immediate health threats we all face, there are also the devastating consequences on the world economy. Entire industry sectors have been paralyzed by forced closure or precipitous drops in demand, resulting in millions and millions of people suddenly out of work.
A pandemic definitely makes it difficult to provide vital services and raise needed money, and unfortunately, we can't quite see the light at the end of the tunnel. Tremendous uncertainty – and anxiety – remains, but you and I can’t afford to let fear immobilize us. For the people whose lives we’re working to help improve, we just can’t allow ourselves to get bogged down. We are in the middle of a health crisis, but surely this, too, shall pass.
Young people need our leadership, especially in times like these. More than 55 million American students have suddenly been forced to complete the current academic year online. Most teachers were woefully unprepared for this abrupt change, but they have had to press on and find new ways to engage with and teach their students. Like teachers, NYEP staff are considered “essential workers,” and we, too, have had to make adjustments to how we deliver our services. Over the past month, we have had to make drastic changes to our expectations, our focus, and how we engage with our residents. Meanwhile, we continue to provide food and shelter, and act as parents to the young women in our program.
Since realizing early on that this virus would be impacting our daily lives for an extended period of time, we have adjusted our school expectations and support, and now provide online computer programming training to our residents. We also started a Face Mask Making Project, which has allowed us to continue our programming around Community Engagement while practicing social distancing. Since March 23rd, NYEP residents have helped make 250 masks. We have implemented a strict daily sanitization schedule, and housing staff continue to go in daily to assist with wake ups, sanitizing and cleaning, meal preps, grocery orders, calendars, and other needs. Staff makes all offsite trips for essential supplies to further limit resident exposure. Under our new guidelines, residents can only leave the house if they have an essential job.
There is a COVID station at the entrance of the house to remind residents not to leave, what they can do at home instead, and (for our essential workers) the steps they need to follow when returning home (take shoes off outside, put clothes in washer, shower). We’ve also posted social distancing and hand washing instructions around the house. We have had to cancel upcoming crucial fundraising events, and the financial outreach allowing people to tour our facilities has stopped. There is absolutely no getting around it – this will have a considerable negative effect on our ability to secure the financial support necessary to continue to improve the lives of the young women we serve.
What are we to do?
I am asking you to please donate today to NYEP’s Community Living Program Operations Fund to ensure we can continue to provide critical services like replenishing food supplies, paying for utilities, subsidizing additional transportation and personnel, and enabling tech-based efforts to keep our young residents progressing in their training for living wage jobs.
Because we receive no Federal, State, County or City funds, we rely solely on private support, and, with the current State-mandated closure of all the essential businesses, along with the uncertainty in all that, we expect to experience an immediate and severe financial shortfall. We have even applied for CARES funding.
The CARES Act provides some benefits for donors as well. In addition to the loan programs for non-profits, the CARES Act includes incentives to promote charitable giving. For people who itemize their deductions, the limitation on deductions is suspended for individuals allowing them to take deductions at 100% of their Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) for cash gifts only (previously the limit was 60 percent of AGI). The CARES Act also removed the requirement for people with IRAs to take the required minimum distribution (RMD) during 2020 only.
As noted above, we can’t be paralyzed by fear. And we have to do the best we can – too many people’s lives and livelihoods are at stake. Which is why your donation is needed now, so that NYEP can provide a continuity in services to its residents. Your financial support today will go towards the critical basic and supportive needs of the young women in our housing program. Please make a gift of whatever amount you can to ensure NYEP’s ability to serve the residents as they strive to achieve outcomes like high school completion, skilled wage employment and independent housing.