The Russell Family Foundation recently announced it would provide a $1 million grant to the Pierce County Connected Fund to help Pierce County residents impacted by COVID-19 with “urgent human service needs,” such as food, housing, childcare for first responders, eldercare, and support for other vulnerable children and families.

“The Russell Family Foundation has been investing in Pierce County for over 20 years,” Holly Powers, senior program officer for the foundation, said in a statement. “This moment calls for a bold response to support our most vulnerable community members experiencing food insecurity, housing instability and other impacts from COVID-19. We are confident these funds will be rapidly deployed for the greatest needs through the Pierce County Connected Fund.”

In addition to supporting the Pierce County Connected Fund, the grant also included $670,000 to support 26 organizations across five South Sound counties within the foundation’s environmental education fund. Grantees include Foss Waterway Seaport, Mount Rainier Institute – University of Washington Foundation, Port Townsend Marine Science Center, Vashon Nature Center, and Washington Future Farmers of America Foundation, among others.

Moreover, the Gig Harbor-based foundation also pledged a $25,000 COVID-19 grant that supports increased rapid testing capabilities through Tacoma-based RAIN Incubator. RAIN will use the grant to employ biotechnology researchers and train students to run analyses and assist in managing supplies.

Recently, The Russell Family Foundation was one of many such foundations to sign the Council on Foundations’ Philanthropy’s Commitment During COVID-19 pledge, the purpose of which is to ease restrictions on grant funding amid the pandemic. Because of this, the foundation was able to convert its environmental educational fund grants to help with general operations as opposed to funding specific projects. In fact, of the 26 grants the foundation has bestowed in its environmental education fund, 18 were initially intended to provide “immersive outdoor learning opportunities, environmental summer camps, internships, and more.”

“Now, more than ever, we must emphasize flexible, adaptive grantmaking that responds to changing needs and truly supports communities in these unprecedented times,” Fabiola Greenawalt, program officer for the foundation, said in a statement. “As families and kids stay home, environmental education looks more virtual and remains an important part of the learning curriculum. The model has changed temporarily, but it’s vital that our grantees remain able to provide environmental learning opportunities to young people and communities in our region. We are proud to support them where their needs are greatest.”

In keeping with its environmental stewardship, the foundation also is investing $5.1 million in the Calvert Emerging Markets Equity Fund, a fund which invests in businesses that comply with specific standards while also averaging 91 percent fewer carbon emissions than other companies. And a $30,000 grant is being awarded to Oxbow Farm & Conservation Center to help connect youth in rural areas to local food supply chains.

“Our grants and investments in this region all tie back to creating a more peaceful and sustainable world,” Kathleen Simpson, CFO and Interim CEO for the foundation, said in a statement. “We carefully evaluate all funding opportunities to ensure they align with this vision, and we adjust how we give based on real world circumstances. We believe that adaptive grantmaking, trust-based giving, and values aligned investing are critical strategies for philanthropy, especially right now.”

For more information, visit The Russell Family Foundation online.

Thumbnail photo by John Guccione from Pexels