BALLSTON SPA – Saratoga County announced Wednesday the recipients of the $2 million it set aside in a nonprofit COVID relief grant fund. The 177 organizations each specifically serve county residents, according to a county release.
The county Board of Supervisors gave preference to those that had not previously received any other county, state or federal pandemic relief monies during the selection process, according to board chair Theodore Kusnierz, Jr. He said they took a wide-angle look at the financial impact of the pandemic on communities and recognized that nonprofits did not receive the type of assistance other companies did.
“It was basically an easy lift, if you will, to form a consensus that being able to support these nonprofits who provide such a vital service in various capacities to our residents, that if we could help them, we’re going to do it. And so that was the genesis of the project,” Kusnierz said.
In the end, 177 of 179 applications were awarded funding, even if not at the requested level.
Kusnierz said Clifton Park Supervisor Jonathan Schopf, chair of the Law & Finance Committee, decided to create a subcommittee to review applications, which included Schopf, Edinburgh Supervisor Jean Raymond and Charlton Supervisor Joe Grasso. Kusnierz said the nonprofit status of one organization could not be confirmed and it was determined that the other had received another form of funding.
The organizations awarded funds help Saratoga County’s people in a variety of ways from veterans’ services to mental health to food insecurity, the board’s chair said.
Four received $50,000 – the largest single amount given, including the Wilton Food Pantry. Its director Peter Maynard is one of two part-time employees, just one of a list of expenses and pantry initiatives the money will help cover. Maynard said the pantry’s annual fundraiser has been canceled the last three years straight – a big hit to its budget, and 28% more visitors have come through their doors so far in 2022 compared to 2021.
Maynard said they were surprised how much they received but that it will definitely be put to good use.
“Right now we are the only pantry, that I’m aware of, that allows you to come more than once a month. I’ve got people who come every Saturday or every Wednesday, and we know their situation. So we just say, ‘Okay.’ We’ll maintain our service levels…And I don’t mean to suggest we’re even thinking about it but just puts us on more solid footing to think about it, ‘Okay, what other thing should we be involved in?’”
Michelle Larkin is also beginning to reflect on how her organization will use the $50,000 it was awarded. Larkin is the founder and executive director of Rebuilding Together Saratoga County, a local affiliate of the national organization that, “repair homes, revitalize communities and rebuild lives,” according to the national website.
She said the money will help with five to 10 projects on an extensive waiting list that only grew longer during the pandemic. Larkin rattled off a veteran in the Mechanicville-Stillwater area in need of safe stairs to get from one floor to the next, someone in Ballston Spa without a safe exit to their home and a woman in Clifton Park that she said is in desperate need of a new roof.
“It’s great for us because it’s a fund that we didn’t expect, and it will allow us to help people that maybe we didn’t have a funding source to assist,” Larkin said.
Roy McDonald, president of Friends of the New York Military Museum, said their $50,000 will go toward a new exhibit on the globe war on terrorism. A U.S. Army veteran himself, who served in the Vietnam War, McDonald said the state military museum receives school groups and visitors throughout the Saratoga Race Course meet, among others throughout the year, and its purpose is to specifically draw attention to all the New York residents who have served, dating back to the American Revolution. McDonald said the Board of Supervisors are supporters of his organization, and this is another example.
Fire departments and EMTs also benefitted. Kusnierz said Saratoga County has 33 fire agencies and 11 for emergency services, and the supervisors recognized the increasingly great demand for those services during the pandemic. Thus, $100,000 was reserved to, in combination with the “Roll With Us” campaign launched earlier this year, assist in those agencies’ recruitment efforts, according to the county press release.