A fundraising effort to support the community during the coronavirus pandemic has generated more than $100,000 for residents who need help paying for groceries.
MHK Together, a local fundraising group with 502, a local marketing agency, and the Greater Manhattan Community Foundation, along with Shepherd’s Crossing, Konza United Way, Dillons and Hy-Vee as partners, announced Tuesday the total amount of money raised during the first 100 hours of the effort.
Organizers created the program to support the community as the coronavirus pandemic forces people to stay home, businesses to close or cut back on services and hours, and some people to be laid off permanently or temporarily.
The Riley County Health Department on Friday issued an order banning gatherings of more than 10 to promote social distancing and slow the spread of the virus. It clarified on Sunday that the order closes places where people gather, such as bars, dining areas in restaurants, salons and playgrounds. Places like grocery stores and pharmacies, where people come-and-go, will be allowed to remain open.
“There is no doubt that the economic devastation from this shutdown of our economy, both locally and nationally, is creating very difficult times for businesses of all industries,” MHK Together’s website said. “We chose to support hospitality and retail businesses through this program because these businesses have been disproportionally affected by the restrictions on group gatherings. These businesses play a huge role in supporting our overall quality of life in Manhattan and they need our help.”
Businesses can register through the fundraiser’s website at mhktogether.org. If people buy a gift card from a business through the MHK Together website, the organization will match the amount through a fund at GMCF. The money will be spent on gift cards from Dillons or Hy-Vee and distributed to eligible residents in need.
To be eligible to receive the grocery store gift cards, individuals must be a resident or work in Manhattan and show they have a reasonable need for financial assistance if they have been laid off or have had their working hours reduced.
After approval by the Konza United Way and Sheperd’s Crossing, grocery gift cards will be sent through the mail within about a week.
Vern Henricks, president and CEO of the community foundation, said the fundraiser will focus on distributing grocery gift cards for its first round and will later determine if it is able to continue giving cards to those with recurring needs.
“We’ll take this by a month-by-month basis and make sure we can help as many that need it as long as we can,” he said.
Henricks also said organizers will later evaluate how long it can maintain the fundraiser based on resources and funds. Anyone interested in helping match support for the fund can contact Henricks at email@example.com or 785-564-2121.
Blade Mages, principal and founder of 502, said the fundraiser came about in a week from its inception after he met with local partners to devise a plan to help the community in some way.
"Manhattan has a history of coming together and supporting people when they need it," Blade Mages, principal and founder of 502, said, "and we just knew a tool needed to be created to give people the chance to help in any way that they could. It's very humbling to see the community come together not just for this project, but ... there's lending hands being extended everywhere."
The fund is supported by $150,000 in donations from the Ward & Brenda Morgan Donor Advised Fund, the Lincoln & Dorothy Deihl Advised Fund and the Mary Vanier Donor Advised Fund.
Organizers are seeking another $50,000 in gift card purchases by the community for the full match to happen.
In total, the effort has generated $200,000 when including $100,000 in gift cards that people purchased from businesses. One hundred percent of the money used to purchase gift cards will go directly to local businesses.
More than 100 businesses have been approved for the program and more than 160 people have submitted applications to receive assistance.
GMCF also is hosting a COVID-19 Recovery fund, located on its website, to provide grants to nonprofits supporting those affected by the pandemic.