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Community Foundation for Southwest Washington raises more than $4 million for coronavirus response

Three weeks after launching its SW Washington COVID Response Fund, the Community Foundation for Southwest Washington has raised more than $4 million and disbursed $1.75 million to area nonprofit groups.

“Economic shifts that typically play out over a month or more are happening in a matter of weeks,” Community Foundation President Jennifer Rhoads said in a news release. “We must respond urgently to provide a bridge of support for local folks that can’t wait for state and federal resources to feed their families or protect their loved ones.”

The SW Washington COVID Response Fund concentrates on relief efforts in Clark, Cowlitz and Skamania counties. Rhoads said a committee of representatives from all three counties meets every Monday to look through emailed funding requests and makes decisions for that week. Checks are sent by the end of the week.

To respond swiftly as needs arise, the Community Foundation is foregoing the typical formal application process. Philanthropic groups around the country are making similar efforts.

“Local nonprofits are being called on to fill widening gaps in our social safety net and serve those disproportionately affected by this emergency. Timely, flexible financial support is required for these charitable organizations to meet the rising need, and local funders and donors are acting quickly,” the Community Foundation said in a news release.

Fifty-one grants have been distributed so far. Some of the larger grants went to Fourth Plain Forward ($177,500), the Clark County Food Bank ($105,000), Meals on Wheels People ($100,000), Council for the Homeless ($100,000) and Washington State University Vancouver ($85,000).

Rhoads said the fund is currently focused on basic needs: housing, shelter, food, health and support for essential workers. She sees rental support as the next major need.

Funders big and small have contributed to the SW Washington COVID Response Fund. A $300,000 grant came from the Vancouver-based M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust, which itself is contributing millions to groups responding to the COVID-19 pandemic in the Pacific Northwest.

Vancouver couple Bob and Mary Sisson also contributed to the fund. They recently sold their toy store Kazoodles and are worried about how small businesses and locals are faring. (Bob Sisson is a retired Columbian copy editor.)

“We may be retired, but we’re still in close touch with small business owners in Vancouver and across the country,” Mary Sisson said in a news release. “We see what they’re facing and feel the pain of workers who have lost jobs and are struggling to make ends meet. That’s why we wanted to help.”

For more information about the SW Washington COVID Response Fund, visit


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