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Governor McKee, Rhode Island Foundation Announce 2nd Round of RI Gives Vax Challenge Recipients

PROVIDENCE, RI – Governor Dan McKee, the Rhode Island Department of Health, the Rhode Island Executive Office of Commerce and the Rhode Island Foundation announced today that 5,000 more Rhode Islanders have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, reaching the second milestone of the RI Gives Vax Challenge, resulting in more than 10,000 first COVID-19 vaccinations since July 6.

Based on the RI Gives Vax Challenge, 12 more nonprofits from across Rhode Island will receive $10,000 grants. Eligible nonprofits were selected through a lottery system by the Rhode Island Foundation. All awardees were on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Jointly established by Governor McKee, the Rhode Island Commerce Department, the Rhode Island Department of Health and the Rhode Island Foundation earlier this month, the Vax Challenge encourages Rhode Islanders to get vaccinated by offering grants to nonprofits that supported the general COVID-19 response and recovery.

The recipients of the second round of grants are: African Alliance of Rhode Island, Be the Change Sunday Meal, Boys & Girls Clubs of Warwick, Center for Southeast Asians, The Collective, Friends of Rhode Island CASA, NeighborWorks Blackstone River Valley, Rhode Island Public Health Institute, Rhode Island Communities for Addiction Recovery Efforts, The Salvation Army, Turning Around Ministries and Women's Refugee Care.

African Alliance of Rhode Island During the pandemic, the African Alliance of R.I. and its faith partners worked together to provide food, basic needs and culturally and linguistically appropriate information about COVID-19. The organization has served an average of 25 to 30 African immigrant and refugee families every week with fresh food and fish.

Be The Change Sunday Meal During the pandemic, Be The Change Sunday has distributed pre-packaged bags with non-perishable food, bread, meat, dairy and frozen foods and has offered curbside pick-up. The number of households the organization serves has tripled from 5,200 to over 15,000.

Boys & Girls Clubs of Warwick During the pandemic, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Warwick has focused its resources on distance learning loss, behavioral health and obesity. This summer, the organization is operating two camps, including an innovative STEAM-focused camp to help children overcome so-called distance learning and summer learning loss.

Center for Southeast Asians During the pandemic, the Center for Southeast Asians has provided case management, delivered food, enrolled people into health insurance, helped small businesses apply for federal aid and provided COVID-19 testing and vaccination information.

The Collective During the pandemic, the Collective has raised over $70,000 to help South County residents with utilities and housing, provided grocery store gift cards to food-insecure households and shopped for residents who were more vulnerable to the threat of the virus.

Friends of Rhode Island CASA During the pandemic, Friends of RI CASA, which serves children referred to Family Court as the result of a state filing of an abuse, neglect or dependency petition, has responded to increased requests for clothing, food, bedding, baby-care items and help with transportation. In addition, the organization provided grocery store gift cards, established a food pantry in Providence and created a dedicated fund to pay for tutoring services to help children catch up academically.

NeighborWorks Blackstone River Valley During the pandemic, NeighborWorks Blackstone River Valley has increased its resident services efforts to ensure that tenants and other residents of northern Rhode Island can receive individualized support to connect with essential resources such as rental assistance, food and childcare assistance.

Rhode Island Public Health Institute In June 2020, RI Public Health Institute opened one of the first walk-up COVID-19 testing sites in Rhode Island. The organization provides free COVID-19 testing for local community members in a geographic hotspot for COVID-19. By culturally tailoring its approach to meet the needs of the local Latinx neighborhood, and by offering services in Portuguese and Spanish, the institute is able to engage and test many local community members who had not previously been tested for COVID-19.

Rhode Island Communities for Addiction Recovery Efforts During the pandemic, RICARES has provided free, individual, peer-based substance use disorder recovery services and conducted weekly outreach at McCauley House, Kennedy Plaza and at the Wyndham Hotel in Newport while it housed COVID-positive residents. The organization also provides ride-share services and bus passes to people with no transportation.

The Salvation Army During the pandemic, the Rhode Island Chapter of the Salvation Army transitioned its Emergency Assistance programs to Emergency Disaster Services response, resulting in increased access by affected individuals and families to its basic needs programming along with new safety protocols to help reduce the spread of the coronavirus.

Turning Around Ministries During the pandemic, Turning Around Ministries has provided financial assistance to help formerly incarcerated residents of Newport County with rent, utilities and food and has offered supportive services, such as job readiness, transportation and mentoring.

Women's Refugee Care During the pandemic, Women's Refugee Care has provided mental health supports, provided rental assistance for families at risk of eviction, distributed food to more than 1,300 individuals a month and provided hand sanitizers, masks and cleaning supplies to prevent spread of COVID-19.

Grant recipients not only continue to provide COVID-19 specific services, but encourage their constituents and communities at-large to get vaccinated.

"The vaccines have helped enormously because staffing is our most important dynamic. Now there is less turnover and need to quarantine. What we're trying to do is provide some consistency in the children's lives because they've had so many interruptions due to COVID-19. We had to close our middle school branch. Because of vaccinations, we will be able to re-open in the fall and serve a whole population that wasn't being served," said Lara D'Antuono, CEO of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Warwick.

Many nonprofit awardees serve the State's most vulnerable populations. Recovery and vaccination outreach efforts are ongoing elements of the services they provide.

"Woonsocket has been hard hit by the pandemic. This is especially true for lower-income neighbors, especially those of color, many whom work in the service and healthcare industries. Our community has lost jobs, fallen behind educationally and, worst of all, we've lost loved ones to COVID-19," said Meghan Rego, NeighborWorks Blackstone River Valley's director, resource development & communications. "But we know there is hope and that getting the vaccine into as many arms as possible is the way to keep our community safe. This Vax Challenge grant will allow us to extend our weekly drop-in Friday night vaccination clinics through September and support the individual outreach that's so needed."

The RI Gives Vax Challenge recipients are able to make a direct impact on their local communities and can be credited with engaging their client bases to getting vaccinated.

"Getting vaccinated is critical for the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities because this pandemic has taken a toll on the health and well-being of all of us. From the beginning of the pandemic, we made sure that people got tested and when it's time for us to get the vaccines, the Center has been stepped-up and making sure all our community gets protected," said Channavy Chhay, executive director of the Center for Southeast Asians.

The budget for the fund is $750,000 to be allocated in grants of $10,000 to Rhode Island 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations. The state provided $500,000 and the Foundation contributed $250,000. Up to an additional four rounds of grants could be awarded each time Rhode Island administers an additional 5,000 first COVID-19 vaccine doses as reported by the Rhode Island Department of Health.

The Rhode Island Foundation will accept applications from interested nonprofits at rifoundation.org/vax through July 30.

The remaining schedule for award disbursements will coincide with COVID-19 vaccination increments of 5,000 as follows: $150,000 will be distributed for the third additional 5,000 first dose COVID-19 vaccines administered (15 awards); $180,000 will be distributed for the fourth additional 5,000 first dose COVID-19 vaccines administered (18 awards); and $200,000 will be distributed for the fifth round of additional 5,000 first dose COVID-19 vaccines administered (20 awards).

Eligible 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations located in Rhode Island can apply to the RI Vax Challenge Program through July 30. While the State and partners recognize the impacts of large nonprofits, these grants are designed to support nonprofits with annual operating budgets of less than $3,000,000 in 2020. Applicants must provide services or direct assistance in response to the COVID-19 pandemic's impacts on individuals or communities. Such organizations may provide services in categories such as health, basic needs or children and youth. Examples include behavioral health services, food insecurity and programs that address learning loss.

The Rhode Island Foundation staff will review and determine whether applicant organizations meet the eligibility requirements of the program. As each milestone is reached, Rhode Island Foundation staff will enter eligible applications into a lottery to make selections for grant awards.

To learn more about vaccinations and to sign up today, visit vaccinateri.org.