April 19, 2020

It has now been about a month since the terms "social distancing" and "self quarantining" entered our collective vocabulary, and the Ashland Emergency Fund started preparing to ease the financial impact to our most vulnerable neighbors. The AEF Board wanted to give you an update on where we stand and what we have done so far.

Providing Assistance

We pledged an initial $10,000 to startup the Town's Resident and Restaurant Relief Program (3R Program), which has now been providing over 300 meals each week to residents in need from local restaurants, thereby helping both the residents and the businesses of Ashland. With the success of this program, we have already committed an additional $10,000, which should ensure the program is around for at least another 5 weeks.

We have also provided almost $10,000 in financial support to a handful of residents that have already been impacted, and there are several other cases in the vetting process. We expect this type of support will be the biggest need in the coming weeks and months, and we need to be prepared.

We committed to providing assistance for the School Meals to Go program even when the program started without any official funding. Fortunately, the federal government has since stepped in and will cover most, if not all, of those costs, but we are here as a back up if needed.

All in all, we have already committed to nearly $30,000 in assistance, and we are still at the very beginning of the road.

Overall Fundraising

The generosity of the people and businesses of Ashland is simply amazing. Our initial fundraising goal was $50,000, which you exceeded in just over 2 weeks time. This shows that Ashland is obviously a generous and caring community. We no longer have a specific goal, other than to say that we will use 100% of the donations to assist people. The more donations, the more we can assist. The Foundation for MetroWest awarded us a $2,500 grant from the MetroWest Emergency Relief Fund, and we are waiting to hear on several other grants. We have also had numerous personal donations that have also come with matching corporate donations!

Specific Fundraisers

There are numerous groups around town that have or are in the process of setting up fundraisers for the benefit of the AEF. Here are a few that we are aware of, but we apologize if we are missing any. We appreciate everyone's efforts!

Front Steps Project - where you can get a professional picture of your family on your front steps for the promise of a donation to the AEF.

Staying Apart Together - a virtual race setup by Oak Realty

Run For Ashland - The Ashland Recreation Department's idea to keep you busy on Marathon Monday.

Partnering with Others

The Town of Ashland - Even though we are a private organization, we have always had a strong partnership with the Food Pantry and the Town's Human Services Department. This has not changed. However, with the 3R Program, we are also working closely with the Town Manager, Michael Herbert, and his team, including Beth Reynolds, the Economic Development Director. If any additional restaurants would like to participate in the 3R Program, they should contact her.

Neighbor Brigade - We discussed with Neighbor Brigade how we might work in conjunction together as the two groups seem to help many of the same people, but in different ways. The Neighbor Brigade has since created a program to deliver food pantry assistance, as well as pickup up prescriptions and even do grocery shopping for those that are unable to get out.

Meals on Wheels - When we heard that Meals on Wheels had scaled back service in Ashland, we contacted them and found that many of the local volunteers for Meals on Wheels had temporarily stepped back from their service because they themselves are at risk. By the AEF helping to raise awareness of this, MOW has since gotten more than enough replacement volunteers, and all of the Ashland residents on the program are now being serviced once again. In fact, Ashland volunteers are also helping to bolster neighboring towns.

Affordable Housing Trust Fund - We have discussed with the AHT how a housing assistance program might impact the residents, and therefore, alleviate some demands for housing assistance on the AEF (which is normally the biggest portion of our assistance annually). This would free up AEF resources to provide more assistance for food insecurity and utilities. AHT is investigating what options might be available to them.

Need for Volunteers

Whether it be helping with social media and communications, assisting with grants, keeping track of our financials, fundraising, community outreach, writing thank you notes to donors, or many of the other tasks that we do, the AEF could use some additional hands to help share our volunteer workload. If you are interested in helping for even just an hour or two each month, please contact Wendy Pyne.

Overall Position

While we know that the bulk of the work of our volunteer board is still ahead of us for Covid-19 related support issues, we feel that the Ashland Emergency Fund is currently in a strong position to handle a reasonable amount of our residents' needs. However, if the situation deteriorates or carries on for an extended period, that position may change. Whatever happens ahead, we are prepared to use the resources you have generously provided us to help those in our community that need it the most.

The Ashland Emergency Fund cannot do what it does without you! On behalf of the entire AEF Board, thank you!

Roland Houle

Ashland Emergency Fund Chair