A total of $685,925 in grants made to 24 nonprofits in Madison & Onondaga counties.

Guided by the Council on Foundation’s pledge to “act with fierce urgency to support our nonprofit partners, as well as the people and communities hit hardest by the impacts of COVID-19,” the Central New York Community Foundation responded to COVID-19 by adjusting its spring Community Grant round to prioritize emergency relief efforts in Onondaga and Madison counties.

The Council on Foundations is the national professional association of philanthropic organizations. Along with many of its foundation peers, the Community Foundation signed on to the Council’s pledge to provide flexibility to its grantee partners and help them move their essential work forward during a critical time.

“In keeping with our commitment to flexibility due to COVID-19, we accepted applications from organizations experiencing COVID-related financial difficulty, as well as applications that are more typical for our community grant program,” said Danielle Johnson, director, grants and initiatives at the Community Foundation. “There was an unexpected need and we adapted our processes accordingly.”

The Community Foundation’s community grantmaking program typically supports nonprofit programs, capital projects, and organizational development work. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the Community Foundation broaden parameters for funding requests in order to respond to the needs of nonprofits and residents that were affected in often unforeseen and nuanced ways.

This meant that in addition to its typical funding parameters, the Community Foundation also supported general operating expenses. One example of this is Ophelia’s Place which received $30,000 to cover operational expenses that were impacted when its main source of revenue, Café 407, closed during quarantine.

“Social distancing, self-quarantining, and other precautionary measures involved in flattening the curve provide the perfect environment for eating disorders to thrive,” said Holly Lowery, executive director at Ophelia’s Place. “When the pandemic hit it was more crucial than ever that we could continue delivering our current support programs, both through and beyond this time of crisis.”

The grant will allow the organization to continue its education and outreach programs and weekly online and in-person support groups for people that battle food and body image issues. Staff also provide daily phone and email support for those seeking recovery resources. The café reopened June 24th (with limited seating, new hours and a new menu concept so as to adhere to health and safety guidelines) to regenerate its operating revenue.

“With Café at 407 having been Ophelia’s Place’s single biggest funding stream, having to close temporarily was a very difficult decision for us,” said Lowery. “We’re very grateful to have the support of the Community Foundation to help get us through this period of uncertainty as we work to sustainably rebuild the café’s services to a place where they can continue supporting Ophelia’s Place.”

Each year the Community Foundation holds two community grant rounds to provide funding for innovative nonprofit projects in the areas of arts and culture, civic affairs, education, health, human services and the environment. Last year, the Community Foundation gave $1,813,803 to 49 nonprofit organizations through this grant program.

The Community Foundation recently made the following grants to local nonprofit organizations:

Advocates received $25,000 to conduct job training in partnership with AccessCNY and its Provisions Bakery program that prepares individuals of all abilities for the workforce.

American Red Cross received $28,000 to purchase a new Community Emergency vehicle for blood donation transportation services.

Aurora of CNY received $50,000 to redesign its central databases for more efficient agency operations.

Cazenovia Community Preschool received $30,000 to make capital improvements to its Snack Studio and Sensory Lab.

CNY Jazz received $15,000 to support costs associated with converting in-person programming to an online platform.

Community Options received $18,451 to upgrade its technology for job training and placement programming.

Empire Housing Development received $26,000 to make capital improvements to its office building at 643 Park Ave.

Erie Canalway received $19,780 to launch a cross-curriculum program with the Museum of Science and Technology (MoST) that combines STEM and History.

Heritage Farm received $31,616 for technology upgrades and SMART boards to assist with virtual programming.

Madison Cortland ARC received $50,000 for general operating bridge funding.

National Audubon Society received $12,500 to host virtual Onondaga Lake STEM Series for children and adults.

North Syracuse Early Education Program received $30,000 to build an inclusive playground.

Northeast Organic Farming Association received $28,066 to transition to a web-based platform for farmers and consumers.

Onondaga Environmental Institute received $28,155 to create a stream monitoring program for youth in Syracuse and the Onondaga Nation.

Ophelia’s Place received $30,000 for general operating bridge funding.

Partners in Learning received $10,000 to support its Diversity in Early Education & Care initiative in Syracuse.

Partnership for Community Development received $13,300 to purchase and install new signage along the Chenango Canal Towpath Trail.

PEACE, Inc. received $38,157 to purchase a van for its Meals-to-Go service and deliver meals to seniors.

Sage Upstate received $20,000 to convert in-person programming to an online platform.

Symphoria received $40,000 to support the costs of hosting virtual fall concerts.

Syracuse City Ballet received $36,900 for general operating bridge funding.

Syracuse Rescue Mission received            $50,000 to fund a program manager at the Runaway and Homeless Shelter for LGBTQ youth.

Table Community Food Pantry received $15,000 to build additional storage space for its food distribution program.

Volunteer Lawyers Project received $40,000 for general operating expenses to accomodate an increase in COVID-19-related case management.


The Central New York Community Foundation is a public charity established in 1927 that collects contributions from donors, manages them to grow over time and then distributes funding to local charities to help them thrive. It is the largest charitable foundation in Central New York with assets of nearly $260 million and has invested more than $200 million in community improvement projects since its inception. As a grantmaker, civic leader, convener and sponsor of strategic initiatives, the Community Foundation strives to strengthen local nonprofits, encourage better understanding of the region and address the most critical issues of our time.

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