As the COVID-19 crisis took hold a year ago, large institutions struggled to address issues ranging from food insecurity to remote learning loss to insufficient broadband. Many turned to community-based organizations for their on-the-ground expertise. Though relatively small, these grassroots organizations are largely comprised of staff who were born and raised in the communities they serve. As the pandemic unfolded, deep relationships allowed community-based organizations to identify children and families most at risk. A foundation of trust ensured that resources were accepted without hesitation. Further, these organizations had long operated with limited financial support, but a driving commitment to meeting needs. “Necessity is the mother of invention,” as the old proverb goes and their creativity has led to innovative solutions with immediate impact and the potential to be game changers long-term. Well beyond COVID-19, with sufficient support, the work of community-based organizations could be replicated and scaled to build a stronger, more equitable Baltimore—and beyond. Thankfully, BCF’s strategic plan includes a strong emphasis on community engagement, giving us a front row seat to the powerful work underway. Here, we profile just a few of the ingenious individuals and organizations that are leading the charge.
Growing up in Cleveland, Ohio, Bruce Behrens’ family didn’t have the means to be philanthropic. It wasn’t until he moved to Baltimore to work with Alex Brown and later Brown Advisory that charitable giving entered the picture.
After serving in the Army in Japan during World War II, John Kovach received his masters from Harvard University’s School of Business. By that time, John had met his wife, Helen, the daughter of Sicilian immigrants, and together they settled in Oklahoma, where John was the financial vice president at a petroleum corporation. They soon moved again, with their two sons, this time to Baltimore City. In less than a decade, John would be made senior partner at Alex Brown.
BCF operates at the intersection of grassroots organizations, civic leaders and concerned donors. As such, we have a vital role to play during the COVID-19 pandemic. Our response began in mid-March when we made emergency grants to 18 frontline organizations for distribution of food, diapers, formula and other essential products in vulnerable communities.