to act quickly, depend on each other, and
encourage innovation. We have prioritized
community-led solutions — trusting those on the
front lines to do the work they know how to get
done, to serve their neighbors who are in need.
Dear Friends, Donors, and Partners,
During unprecedented times, the San Antonio Area Foundation was committed to helping the community respond and recover. .
The COVID-19 Response Fund was created by the Area Foundation and the United Way of San Antonio and Bexar County, in partnership with multiple funders, to call forth the strengths and resiliency of our community in response to the COVID-19 health pandemic.
Together, the San Antonio Area Foundation and 38 partners established a fund available for general operating grants for area nonprofit organizations most impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. Our ability to leverage relationships within our community allowed us to provide support to over 200 organizations with a community investment totaling $6.4M.
While it is impossible to fully capture the awe-inspiring spirit of generosity and compassion that motivated donors and nonprofit workers throughout this past year, this report will focus on the collective efforts of the COVID-19 Response Fund.
Our gratitude goes to our founding partners and the thousands of other nonprofit organizations, donors, and leaders who came together to address our community’s needs.
Marjie French, CEO, San Antonio Area Foundation
There’s a reason why the San Antonio community, starting with city leadership,
to the San Antonio Area Foundation for innovation and efficacy in local philanthropy.
Whether it was immediately reopening childcare centers, enabling emergency cash
assistance, or empowering nonprofits to continue their mission even in the darkest
of times, the Area Foundation was there, responding to the crisis with a stabilizing
force that united the philanthropic and nonprofit sectors of our community.
The H. E. Butt Foundation co-invested with the SAAFdn in early-stage capacity building for three organizations: American Indians in Texas at the Spanish Colonial Missions, San Anto Cultural Arts and the Classical Music Institute. The Area Foundation partnered with the Ford Foundation to provide $100,000 to the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center in appreciation of its 36-year history as a home for San Antonio’s Latino artists and cultural traditions and as a means to strengthen the Guadalupe’s ability to work through and beyond the current crisis.
As the City began shutting down, so did daycare and other childcare centers. Response Fund partners started linking with nonprofits to reopen childcare centers for first responders and essential workers.The support provided immediate impact in stabilizing a spiraling crisis as the pandemic spread exponentially.
“My daughter enrolled in the distance learning camp, and sending her has been an absolute lifeline for our family. We work and have no family in town. Without this camp, we’d have to make some painful decisions for our family, financial and otherwise.”
TOTAL AMOUNT: $200,000
The learning center was able to stay open during the early months of COVID-19, providing full-day childcare to 269 children of essential workers when schools and other childcare centers closed.
Later, in August, the YMCA transitioned to offering e-Learning camps that gave 423 children boosted WiFi and support as they navigated their school’s distance learning programs.
The grant provided by the COVID-19 Response Fund allowed this venerable
organization to keep programs going when it would otherwise have had to suspend
terminate them. For example, contributing artists still collected fees for their
work, and members of the MujerArtes Women’s Clay Cooperative continued to
their regular stipends.
As social distancing and quarantine affected its programming, Esperanza staff had to walk the tightrope of providing quality virtual programming while remaining cognizant of our community’s lingering digital divide.
Wellness and outreach opportunities traditionally held in-person, such as neighborhood canvassing and visiting clients in their homes, could not be switched to a digital format.
Educational programming, however, saw a significant bump, as other clients appreciated the flexibility and logistical ease of online workshops.
As virtual programming took hold, Esperanza found success with its virtual event held on Oct. 10, in celebration of the national observations of Hispanic Heritage Month and National Coming Out Month. The online event was a much-needed showcase for talented artists, not just from San Antonio but from across the country, and an opportunity for the Latinx LGBTQ+ community to bond in times of crisis and despair.
TOTAL GRANT: $20,000
Esperanza put grant funds to good use providing basic needs for its clients – with nearly 500 meals served, including almost 200 food box deliveries.
In total, Esperanza was able to put on 31 live virtual cultural events and workshops, with the grant ultimately impacting the well-being of 15,000 residents.
Corazón has been serving downtown San Antonio’s homeless population for more than
two decades. The pandemic immediately impacted its homelessness service work since
clients could no longer congregate in large groups. No longer able to host
gatherings, the agency went mobile thanks to its $5,000 grant.
Staffers used an “ice cream truck” model to distribute meals in the five largest public parks in the downtown area. Corazón then teamed up with Centro SA and the City of San Antonio to operate in a gymnasium following appropriate social distancing and safety protocols.
They were able to hire a kitchen assistant to help prepare more meals to meet increasing demand. Corazón maintained services crucial for keeping poverty in check, including ID recovery, a cooling center during hot summer days, voter registration, and medical services.
In addition, they partnered with Sichuan House and Pharm Table for six months, using the Area Foundation grant to provide meals for the homeless, keeping small businesses afloat.
TOTAL GRANT: $5,000
“It was a great opportunity to provide meals to people in need while at the same time doing our part to provide jobs by keeping those restaurant employees on the job.”
Girls Inc. was able to maintain its strong connection with the many girls whom
they inspire “to be strong, smart, and bold.”
Academic programming did not stop – the organization was able to shift to virtual programs and administrators were able to increase bandwidth, actually expanding the client base as a result.
Essential wellness services did not stop either. The Girl Pad Grab & Go Program was created to keep offering feminine hygiene products to girls in the community. It quickly proved successful. On just its second distribution event, staff recounted many people showing up on bicycles and on foot –– in the middle of a downpour.
One mother and daughter even walked over after having car trouble (though fearing they could be turned away since it was a drive-through event). They were eternally grateful to learn they would still receive their products.
Once it became safe enough to do so, Girls Inc. used grant funding to open its doors to girls and their families who could not access virtual programs, offering after-school, socially distanced programming.
TOTAL GRANT: $20,000
Academic programming did not stop – the organization was able to shift to virtual programs. Additionally, given the increased demand for digital offerings, administrators were able to increase bandwidth. As a result, the client base expanded.
With their doors shuttered, many small businesses faced dire, if not outright fatal,
consequences as they struggled to stay afloat.
Fortunately, many small businesses were able to keep their heads above water with a lifeline from LiftFund, a microlending agency that received a $75,000 grant from the COVID-19 Response Fund.
LiftFund immediately instituted a four-month loan deferral process for high-risk industries and distributed grants of up to $5,000 to small business owners. Through its business support centers, LiftFund also provided COVID-specific coaching one-on-one and for larger audiences through webinars.
TOTAL GRANT: $75,000
In all, LiftFund utilized its COVID-19 Response Fund grant to help more than 500 clients and save nearly 2,000 jobs.
“I have people depending on me and it has been my motivation to keep going and avoid layoffs. This grant is literally saving lives and families.”
Perhaps no sector across our community most acutely felt the wrath and disastrous
impact of the coronavirus pandemic more than schools. San Antonio Independent School
District, serving the largest proportion of low-income and at-risk students, knew it
faced one of its most menacing challenges.
Thanks to its philanthropic arm, SAISD Foundation, the district’s grant assured the rapid purchase and distribution of 4,000 internet connectivity (hotspot) devices in the early days of the pandemic. This was crucial as students and staff quickly shifted to remote learning protocols.
As the pandemic persisted, additional devices had to be bought and distributed to students who were either new to the district or whose families faced financial hardship from lost wages.
Sadly, the experience highlighted how far San Antonio still must go to bridge its digital divide. The district was already aware that it served a large low-income and at-risk student population, but the need for remote learning made it clear many never had WiFi at home.
TOTAL GRANT: $50,000
SAISD was able to purchase and distribute over 4,000 hotspot devices for low-income and at-risk students to participate in remote learning due to the COVID-19 Response Fund.
“The digital divide has always been there, but we have to prioritize getting kids connected. We have to fix it if we are going to have equity.”
In many respects, the Area Foundation was ready and able to provide immediate
assistance for childcare providers. An example of that is a program put in place
in 2019 which proved to be visionary in helping needy families during the
Along with the H. E. Butt Foundation and other key partners, the Area Foundation helped establish Family Independence Initiative, now known as UpTogether. The program is unique in its simplicity: it identifies eligible families in high-level poverty areas of Bexar County
for direct emergency cash assistance.
“COVID-19 caught all of us off-guard, but we were uniquely prepared to join our partners and quickly get money to families, well before the first federal stimulus payments,” said Ivanna Neri, Partnership Director at UpTogether. “One mom had to stop working because schools closed, and she needed to care for her children. Another person told us she used part of the money to help her neighbors buy groceries.”
TOTAL GRANT: $200,000
The COVID-19 Response Fund invested in UpTogether so they could quickly get cash into households desperate to make ends meet, with one or both parents suddenly out of work and bills mounting.
In all, UpTogether raised more than $12 million, giving more than 31,000 San Antonio households a direct cash infusion (on average, $150 to $500 each).