Volunteers Award Berks COVID-19 Response Fund Grants

Over the past decade, Nick Marmontello, a community volunteer, has worked to make the community stronger and safer.M

Nick, previously a United Way board member, is now dedicating his efforts to empower community organizations during this time of daunting uncertainty. He sits on a panel with six other people with experience in funding community projects, deciding how to best utilize United Way’s COVID-19 Response Fund. The fund provides immediate resources to area nonprofits helping those impacted the most by the pandemic.

“It’s a group of people who have expertise in safety net services and the needs of the community,” Nick said. “They are making sure the grants go to areas of the communities where it will help the most.”

The panel meets virtually once a week to review each application it receives from organizations asking for special funding to combat the damage done by COVID-19.

The application process is a straightforward process, and the panel aims to complete the application process and award funds to appropriate causes in no more than a two-week timespan, Nick said.

So far, United Way has raised nearly $1 million and 32 organizations across Berks have received nearly $500,000 in grant funding.

He notes a sampling of the funds awarded: supporting the work of Berks Coalition to End Homelessness to aid with homeless prevention and shelter; awarding a grant to Helping Harvest food bank for emergency food needs: providing funds to organizations like Dayspring Homes and Blankets for Hope for PPE supplies, along with supporting many others. (A full listing can be viewed at uwberks.org).

After reviewing dozens of applications, Nick said he is amazed and heartened by the amount of work done by all of the groups that have benefited from the fund.

“What has impressed me most is the resiliency of agencies to deliver services that are desperately needed by so many people,” he said. “So many of us live in a very sheltered world, while others are struggling for basic needs like food, diapers, personal care items, utilities and so many other things. I’m awestruck by how the community is coming together.”