When Rhode Island was laid low, these Rhode Islanders stood up

The inspiring response to the COVID pandemic

Support continues to come from every corner of the state, from new donors and longtime partners. You have volunteered, offered advice, and opened your wallets–and your hearts–to help fellow Rhode Islanders as we all journey through the COVID pandemic. And we are truly grateful.

Through your generosity, four COVID-related funds at the Foundation—COVID-19 Response Fund, weR1 Rhode Island Fund, Rhode Island Fund for Public Education Virtual Learning Challenge, and COVID-19 Behavioral Health Fund— have received more than $15 million from approximately 1,400 donors. As of the publishing date of this piece, we continue to receive donations. In fact, gifts range from $1 to several million dollars. In addition to these four funds, the Foundation also recently partnered with the State of Rhode Island to administer $5 million in CARES Act funding, making grants to over 100 local nonprofit organizations.

That means we’ve stewarded more than $20 million in COVID-19 response related funds through the end of 2020.

We are deeply grateful to all of the donors who have supported the Foundation’s pandemic response efforts. Some of their stories follow:

Jonah Bramson

12 year-old Jonah Bramson contributed a portion of the sales from his social enterprise, Names19RI, to the COVID-19 Response Fund.

Anonymous donor

One donor to the COVID-19 Response Fund included a note with a $1,200 check. The note reads, in part, “Dear Friends - Here’s my stimulus money that others need much more than I do.” The individual later made a second gift to the fund.

Jill Pearlman

Jill Pearlman, who established a donor advised fund in 2017, explains, “People who work in restaurants, the performing arts, factories that closed were the ones taking a hit so the rest of us could stay healthy. In some way, we should be thanking them for their sacrifices. I was feeling helpless and wanting to help. Giving seemed to be a safe way to express oneself and to feel that we’re helping to shore up community.” Jill made multiple gifts to the COVID-19 Response Fund and also supported the Artist Relief Fund which was set up in April by the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts (RISCA), with seed funding from the Foundation, to help Rhode Island artists who had lost income due to the pandemic. She is one of 140 donor advisors who contributed to our four COVID-related funds; together they gave more than $5 million.

Jeff Sullivan

A relative newcomer to Rhode Island, Jeff Sullivan is one of more than 900 donors whose first gift to the Foundation was to one of the COVID funds. These first-time donors together gave more than $2 million. Jeff contributed to both the COVID-19 Response Fund and the weR1 Rhode Island Fund and later established a donor advised fund at the Foundation. “We can and will get through this, but to do so will take a lot of resources. My philosophy in giving was to help build a sense of resiliency. Hope has been my motto since I’ve been in Rhode Island,” Jeff states.

Broden Millworks and Supply

In September, Middletown-based Broden Millworks and Supply designated that month’s delivery fees to the Rhode Island Fund for Public Education Virtual Learning Challenge. Cara Dennis, director of The Broden Foundation, says, “The owner is a Christian man who thought it (the Community Support Program) would be a good way to contribute to an individual in need or an organization doing good work. Customers who know about this are happy that we do this. Every month, something usually jumps out at us—like Rhode Island Foundation’s education fund. Come September, we knew that with kids going back to school with distance learning and technology, we could help students and their families who are experiencing this crisis.”