Media release

Black Philanthropy Bannister Fund awards grants to help nonprofits take on the COVID-19 crisis in Providence’s Black community

Rhode Island's Black community has been disproportionately affected by COVID-19, according to data from the state Dept. of Health.

Prompted by the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on Providence’s Black community, the Black Philanthropy Bannister Fund at the Rhode Island Foundation has awarded grants to four community-led organizations on the frontlines of the pandemic.

“It is well documented that our Black community has been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 and the agencies supporting our community are in urgent need for financial relief. Through the Foundation’s Black Philanthropy Bannister Fund, we are proud to have the resources to support the pressing needs of the Black community during this difficult time."

- Linda Newton, chair of the fund’s grants advisory committee

Rhode Island's Black community has been disproportionately affected by COVID-19, according to data from the state Dept. of Health. As of July 8, Black residents comprised 12 percent of all confirmed cases even though Black residents comprise only 8 percent of the state’s population.

“By supporting basic community needs that have increased during the pandemic, we continue our commitment to reducing disparities impacting the Black community. We’re grateful to the advisory committee for recognizing how urgent the need for additional support is and working with us to get more aid to our partners in the community,” said Neil D. Steinberg, president and CEO of the Foundation.

The grant recipients are Camp Street Community Ministries, Community Action Partnership of Providence, Sojourner House, and North End Outreach, which serves the neighborhood around Chad Brown and Admiral Terrace housing developments. All four recipients operate in Providence, which had the state's second highest rate of infection per 100,000 residents as of July 8, according to the state Dept. of Health.

Camp Street Community Ministries received $10,000 to provide fresh fruit and vegetables, personal hygiene products and cleaning supplies to its clients. The organization expects to be able to help at least 150 households.

"During these times, we had to change the way in which we serve our clients. We have partnered with other local organizations. Before COVID-19, our clients would come to us. During this pandemic, we have organized with others to get food to them. This grant will allow us to offer more of the nutritious foods while keeping our shelves stocked with staples," said Jacqueline Watson, executive director

The Community Action Partnership of Providence received $10,000 primarily to re-stock its food pantry. The number of people the organization is helping to feed has increased from 400 to over 1,000 a month since relaunching its new pantry in February of this year as a result of the pandemic.

“COVID-19 has really impacted the Black community. Social determinants like employment exposed a lot of residents to the virus. Many people have jobs in industries that make them essential workers. They couldn't work remotely when others could,” said Rilwan Feyisitan Jr., executive director.

In addition to re-stocking its food pantry, the anti-poverty agency will hire and train approximately 20 people of color in action research to gather data this summer about the impact of the pandemic on Providence's Black residents and other marginalized communities.

"They will go into the community to ask people how COVID-19 has affected them and the community as a whole. We'll use that data to figure out how we can better respond to communities that have higher rates of infection and impacted by poverty as we move into the recovery phase," he said.

North End Outreach (NEO) of Providence received $10,000 to provide fresh produce such as fruits and vegetables, PPE, cleaning supplies and other services to support African American residents of the neighborhood. The organization, which serves the area around the Chad Brown and Admiral Terrace housing developments; expects to serve approximately 75 people.

“Amid the COVID-19 crisis, supporting our local communities is essential during these challenging times. North End Outreach plans to work directly with community members to help service those in need. This pandemic has put a huge financial strain on many families and the NEO wants to alleviate some of their stressors by feeding the hungry and providing sanitation products to keep them healthy and safe,” said President Derek Hazard.

Sojourner House in Providence received $10,000 to provide rental assistance, counseling and supportive services to victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking. The organization reports seeing an uptick in domestic violence incidents due to the pandemic.

"Housing insecurity has heightened during the COVID-19 era," said Vanessa Volz, executive director. "Victims and survivors of abuse often feel like they have limited options, but the pandemic has forced many people to stay in an abusive situation. Sojourner House continues to work to meet the demand for safe housing and support to those who need our help during this challenging time."

The Black Philanthropy Bannister Fund’s roots go back to 2007, when a special fund was established to address the needs of the Black community. The deadline to apply for the next regularly scheduled round of grants is Sept. 10. For more information, visit the Black Philanthropy Bannister Fund.

The Rhode Island Foundation is the largest and most comprehensive funder of nonprofit organizations in Rhode Island. Working with generous and visionary donors, the Foundation raised $47 million and awarded a record $56 million in grants to organizations addressing the state’s most pressing issues and needs of diverse communities in 2019. Through leadership, fundraising and grant-making activities, often in partnership with individuals and organizations, the Foundation is helping Rhode Island reach its true potential.