DAVENPORT — Several nonprofits and donors in the area are banding together to help many in the Quad-Cities hurt by the coronavirus crisis.

Last month, the Regional Development Authority canceled its spring grant cycle and instead is supporting a Quad Cities Community Foundation disaster relief fund and local nonprofits that serve the most vulnerable.

Matt Mendenhall

Matt Mendenhall, president/CEO of RDA, said applications are normally due at the end of March for the spring; the board would approve grants in mid-May, and checks sent by late May or early June.

“When we looked at what was going on, we realized that was going to be too far in terms of getting the money out to people, so we decided to cancel the spring grants so we could respond more quickly to what the need was,” he said recently.

There were only three completed applications when they decided to cancel, and typically, each spring RDA would get 80-100 applications, funding about half of those, totaling $1.2 million.

RDA also had less to give out since its own funding source — Davenport’s Rhythm City Casino — has been closed since March 17. It donated $100,000 to the Quad Cities Disaster Recovery Fund, after the Community Foundation asked for a matching grant, Mendenhall said.

“That was something we wanted to do to set the pace, and say to other funders, this is an important thing to do in a unified way.”

On March 27, RDA granted $215,000 for 10 local agencies that help vulnerable populations (including need for food, shelter and health care), based on requests to the Community Foundation, which has raised over $650,000 in its four-year-old disaster relief fund (re-activated last month). A year ago, the fund was used to support businesses and others impacted by record-breaking flooding.

Now, every dollar up to $25,000 is being matched by Quad Citizens Reggie and Jeff Goldstein. Grants are being awarded regularly, as additional funds are made available.

“There is tremendous need, and with tremendous need comes tremendous opportunity,” said Sherry Ristau, president/CEO of the Community Foundation, which together with the United Way of the Quad Cities and RDA, is leading the community’s effort to raise money to support vulnerable community members during the pandemic.

“Every day — and sometimes every hour — we are receiving critical grant requests,” Ristau said. “Every gift from a Quad Citizen will go to organizations supporting other Quad Citizens during these remarkable times. It will take every one of us to consider how we can support our neighbors and community in these difficult times. Whether it is $5 or $5,000, every dollar truly makes a difference.”

Last week, United Way Board chairperson Linda Bowers matched every gift to the fund, up to $50,000.

Scott County Regional Authority, which is funded by Bettendorf’s Isle Casino, is postponing its spring grant cycle, also focusing on pandemic relief, with applications due May 1.

The SCRA board has significantly changed their usual criteria to include general operating expenses and have defined the following two funding priorities for this cycle:

  • Organizations or projects serving populations that were already vulnerable before or are disproportionately affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • Organization support due to lost revenue or increased demand for services as a result of the pandemic.

Last spring, SCRA awarded more than $1.4 million for 58 area projects, and RDA distributed 50 grants, totaling $1.2 million across nonprofit, civic and governmental organizations, for projects related to economic development, arts, culture, education and human services.

“This spring, when the casino closed, we stopped collecting revenue, because that’s where we get our dollars,” Mendenhall of RDA said. “We had very interrupted revenue streams, so we have much less to give out.” Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds ordered the closure statewide (among many other businesses) on March 17.

“We won’t have any new dollars to grant until the casino re-opens,” Mendenhall said. “When we look at the arts organizations, it’s really traumatic because those are such important organizations.”

“The cycle for the fall will likely be much smaller, all depending on when the casino can open,” he said.

Before becoming head of RDA three years ago, Mendenhall worked at the Community Foundation for seven years. “I was really appreciative they took a leadership role in creating this disaster fund, so we could start prioritizing and doing a unified process and aligning our resources.”

Iowa is one of few states nationwide not to order residents to stay home (except for “essential” activities). As of April 2, Iowa had reported 607 cases of people with Covid-19, and 11 deaths caused by the virus – out of a total of 5,708 deaths and 234,483 cases in the U.S.

The first grants were made recently from the Q-C Disaster Recovery Fund to support the community’s response to the pandemic. Since opening the grant program last week, nearly 70 nonprofits have requested upwards of $2.5 million in support, according to the Community Foundation.

The first round of grants were given to organizations focused on efforts to “flatten the curve” of Covid-19 infections in the region — by helping the community follow public health recommendations and helping address the financial impact of following those recommendations.

“The grantees are providing critical support to children, youth, seniors, healthcare services, emergency housing, and other needs of the most vulnerable and affected by this pandemic disaster,” the foundation said. A total of $350,402 — nearly all the cash in the fund at this time — was granted in this first round to 19 organizations.

Mendenhall said that the community should have a new appreciation for organizations that provide a safety net.

“With the number of people losing their incomes, access to food and shelter take on new importance,” he said. “As we’ve talked to organizations, and reviewed each grant request, it has been impressive to see how the nonprofits have stepped up in so many ways, from adjusting how health care is provided, to increasing food access, as well as to providing relief resources for monthly bills. We are all in this together.”

Sherry Ristau

The RDA, Q-C Community Foundation and United Way of the Quad Cities are also part of a new “Unite Quad Cities for COVID-19 Recovery” — a 24-hour giving event on Monday, April 6.

All contributions will go to supporting Q-C organizations responding to the crisis locally. Media, foundations and nonprofit founders, on both sides of the river, are uniting to support the community’s response.

All contributions will support the Disaster Recovery Fund, and throughout the day, media partners (including WVIK-FM, KWQC-TV, WQAD and WHBF) will feature stories of the impact the pandemic is having on the community, and the heroic efforts of Quad Citizens who are caring for one another during this time.

KWQC’s Paula Sands will host a six-hour telethon Monday, which will also feature other TV6 personalities and local musical performances thanks to a partnership with River Music Experience.

“Coming together in times of need — and in times of joy — is who we are as Quad Citizens,” said Ristau of the Community Foundation. “This fund was activated nearly three weeks ago because community leaders, including the United Way of the Quad Cities and Regional Development Authority, had the foresight that we were going to need to lift up and rally behind vulnerable people that could be impacted.”

The fund is providing support to children, youth, seniors, healthcare services, emergency housing and other needs.

Priority will be given to nonprofits, schools, or units of government providing basic needs services not funded by tax dollars to communities that were already vulnerable before the pandemic, or that are disproportionately impacted by the pandemic and the resulting health measures on finances and service availability.

“The Covid-19 pandemic is a challenge we’ve not seen in our lifetimes,” said Rene Gellerman, president/CEO of the Q-C United Way.

“The fast actions of our community — individuals, businesses, and leaders — to mobilize resources immediately needed to shore up the needs of many is proof that we are resilient,” she said. “I’m proud of our collaboration with Quad Cities Community Foundation and so many others raising funds through the Quad Cities Disaster Recovery Fund. This pandemic is a new challenge for us, but the community spirit required in response is not.”

Gifts to the fund can be made by visiting unitequadcities.org, texting “UniteQC” to 41444, or mailing a check to the Community Foundation at 852 Middle Road, Suite 100, Bettendorf, IA 52722.

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Jonathan Turner has been covering the Quad-Cities arts scene for 25 years, first as a reporter with the Dispatch and Rock Island Argus, and then as a reporter with the Quad City Times. Jonathan is also an accomplished actor and musician who has been seen frequently on local theater stages, including those at the Black Box Theatre.