When County Executive Johnny Olszewski was elected in 2018, his transition team identified BCF as the obvious solution to the problem that there were many individuals and organizations throughout the county that wanted to help build a better region, but that county government simply didn’t have the infrastructure to manage community grant programs. When he presented to BCF’s board of trustees in late 2019, he reiterated this issue and emphasized that he saw BCF as an integral partner to his administration.
Immediately, BCF’s Community Investment Team and the county’s Office of Government Reform & Strategic Initiatives began exploring opportunities to work together, but the collaboration took on new urgency when COVID-19 hit in early 2020. By the end of March, BCF had established the Baltimore County COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund on the county’s behalf. Businesses like BGE and Tradepoint Atlantic joined the Harry & Jeanette Weinberg Foundation and many other generous companies, foundations, and individuals in supporting the Fund.
Two months later, more than $400,000 had been granted to 50 organizations providing remote learning support, mental health services, emergency assistance, and more. “As Baltimore County worked around the clock to protect the health and safety of our residents, we needed to think outside the box in planning our response to this rapidly evolving crisis,” said Olszewski. “We’re most grateful to BCF for providing its expertise and infrastructure, empowering Baltimore County to quickly and strategically evolve our efforts leading a nationally recognized public health response and supporting our neighbors facing food insecurity, the digital divide, and countless other challenges.”
When Baltimore County received funding from the Maryland State Department of Housing & Community Development for pandemic recovery, it turned to BCF again, replenishing the COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund and awarding Nonprofit Recovery Grants to address revenue losses and/or increased operating expenses that local nonprofits experienced during the pandemic. In this second round, the Fund awarded $2.47 million to 65 organizations, with grants ranging from $1,500 to $100,000. Funds supported personal protective equipment purchases, increased food assistance and other services, and upgrades to technology so that organizations could continue serving remotely. The grants also helped organizations bridge budget gaps created when in-person fundraising events and fee-based programs were canceled.
Most recently, Baltimore County and BCF partnered on the Baltimore County Summer Youth Jobs Fund, which provided six weeks of real-world work experience for more than 300 Baltimore County youth, ages 14-21. Young people received job-skills training and coaching, as well as paid work experience at private- and public-sector worksites. For example, the Baltimore County Department of Aging, in partnership with the county’s Summer Youth Employment Program and University of Maryland’s 4-H Extension Program, trained young people to serve as digital mentors for seniors. Not only did these seniors gain access to effective technology training, the intergenerational relationships developed kept young and old socially connected and engaged.
Together, Baltimore County and BCF are showing the power of public-private partnerships to meet the region’s needs efficiently and effectively. As this past year has proven over and over again, we are always stronger together.