Al Smith Foundation Awards $8 Million Including Covid-19 Relief

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In an effort to serve the children of New York during the Covid-19 crisis, the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation has awarded $4 million in emergency pandemic-related relief to organizations serving area youths, bringing to $8 million the total foundation disbursement for the fiscal year 2020

The funding awards will go to 16 nonprofit organizations serving children and families in New York’s most vulnerable communities, organizers said, noting that the pandemic brought an unprecedented rise in unemployment rates, leaving many families facing shortages of food and without adequate means to pay their rent or mortgages, children’s tuition and other bills

The Al Smith foundation board approved a proposal to immediately disburse $4 million in emergency funds at the end of March to the Inner-City Scholarship Fund’s Emergency Tuition Assistance Program and the Archdiocese of New York, bringing grants for fiscal year 2020 to $8 million. Organizers noted that archdiocesan charitable agencies, health organizations, social servies and pastoral leaders have been on the frontlines serving communities most affected by the coronavirus throughout the archdiocese, including the upper counties.

Catholic Charities, Camp Veritas and the St. Elizabeth Seton Pediatric Center were among the other grant recipients.

Bettina Alonso, the executive director of the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation, is executive director of the archdiocesan Department of Development

“We had our regular grant disbursements, and it was about $4 million,” said Ms. Alonso in a recent phone interview with Catholic New York. “And then we had an additional two major grants, each $2 million, one to schools and the other one to parishes—for a total of $8 million.”

She said regular disbursements have been increasing in recent years, and that the emergency funds “are because of Covid.” The additional two major grants were the Archdiocese of New York Emergency Grant and the Covid-19 Emergency Grant

“In a lot of families, people lost their jobs and were distressed, and they fell behind in tuition; that is one area where we are helping, to make sure the kids remain in school,” noted Ms. Alonso, adding that part of the funding has also been used to provide tablet computers. “That was very important. We had to act very quickly. A lot of kids suddenly found themselves at home without computers. It was important for the students to stay on top of their studies; everything was online...And at the parishes, the food lines are longer; the needs of the parishes are bigger, to help the communities.”

Mercedes Lopez Anderson, assistant director of communications for the archdiocese, noted that the Al Smith Foundation was able to double the grants from last year because “they drew from an extraordinary fund that was reserved precisely for circumstances like these.”

Organizers said the 2020 fiscal year $8 million total exceeds the grants awarded in 2019 by $4.2 million, and the 2018 grants by $5.4 million—aligning resources to ensure that the foundation’s mission to bring hope to the neediest children of New York continues to honor the legacy of its namesake, New York Gov. Alfred E. Smith, who in 1928 became the first Catholic to lead a major party ticket in the U.S. presidential election as the nominee for Democratic Party.

Mary C. Erdoes, vice chair of the foundation, said in a statement, “It is the hope of the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation board that these grant disbursements will enable mission-driven, charitable organizations to overcome any financial challenges posed by Covid-19, equipping them to continue to serve their most vulnerable constituents safely and without disruption.” Ms. Erdoes is CEO of J.P. Morgan Asset & Wealth Management.

For more than 70 years, the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation has raised hundreds of millions of dollars in support of charities devoted to serving the children of New York through the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Dinner. The annual gala attracts prominent political, business and cultural leaders. This year’s dinner is scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 1.

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