A sign up sheet and a menu are displayed during a meal giveaway at the Villages at Carver YMCA in the South Atlanta community of Atlanta, Tuesday, March, 17, 2020. May 5 marked #GivingTuesdayNow for charitable organizations supported by philanthropy. (ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM)
Photo: Alyssa Pointer
Photo: Alyssa Pointer

Opinion: Remember charitable groups on Giving Tuesday

Throughout history, nonprofits have been an important part of the fabric and backbone of our nation. Filling the gaps in our society, nonprofits provide vital services in every industry imaginable: health care, housing, food security, finance and economic development, social services, and the list goes on. Due to the crippling impact of the coronavirus pandemic, nonprofits are facing decisions they have never had to make before – decisions that will undoubtedly impact millions of lives.

As the pandemic has intensified, the impact on businesses and nonprofit organizations has been more devastating than anything we have experienced before. Enterprises of all types and sizes are being forced to shutter offices, cut budgets and reduce staff.

For nonprofits, the situation is especially dire as they face substantial declines in the financial support they depend on to fund their work, while simultaneously new demand surges for their services. But even in this challenging time, metro Atlanta nonprofits and the philanthropic community continue to deliver support and services to people who need them.

Examples abound of charitable organizations expanding their support and services to meet the new and elevated needs of those who are most vulnerable: People with chronic conditions, people who are homeless, those who are food insecure, and so many others. The Atlanta Community Food Bank is being flooded with unprecedented numbers of people seeking basic food supplies, with cars lining up for blocks to pick up food at drive-thru sites. At Change to Humanity, volunteers are practicing social distancing while continuing to distribute donated food to homeless people and older adults in metro Atlanta.

United Way of Greater Atlanta and the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta recently announced the Greater Atlanta COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund, which will support those most vulnerable to the economic and health-related issues caused by the pandemic.

And here at Atlanta-based American Cancer Society, cancer patients, caregivers, and survivors are turning to our cancer experts for information and resources to navigate the COVID-19 crisis. The situation has been particularly frightening for cancer patients who are especially vulnerable to the coronavirus, due to their weakened immune systems. But cancer hasn’t stopped, and neither will we.

While our offices are closed, our National Cancer Information Center at 1-800-227-2345 has trained cancer information specialists who are continuing to provide information to cancer patients and their caregivers 24/7 in live calls and video chats. Not surprisingly, 80% of the roughly 70,000 monthly calls to our helpline in March and April were related to COVID-19 and cancer. We are repurposing our Hope Lodges to offer free rooms to health care workers on the front lines of the pandemic response. And our nonpartisan advocacy affiliate, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN), continues to advocate at federal, state and local levels for access to critical health care for the most vulnerable – an urgent need in the face of this pandemic.

Like many other nonprofits, the American Cancer Society has postponed its spring face-to-face events, putting millions of program dollars at risk. At this time of the year under normal circumstances, we would be at the peak of our nationwide Relay For Life and spring fundraising season. Postponed events, coupled with a dramatic dip in charitable donations, have led to a revenue shortfall no one could have predicted. Despite the daunting circumstances, the hope and courage of our volunteers and staff has never been stronger. Their message has been loud and clear: “The mission will not stop on our watch” as they continue to connect online and provide hope and assistance.

Atlanta’s nonprofits are working around the clock to ensure that the most vulnerable among us have the support they need to get through this crisis. On #GivingTuesdayNow and every day, nonprofits like the American Cancer Society need support more than ever to continue providing life-saving services. The Atlanta philanthropic community has always been generous in its willingness to step up in support of charitable service. Your continued generosity is more desperately needed and more greatly appreciated than ever. By working together to ensure that every segment of the metro Atlanta population is cared for, we will emerge from these challenging times stronger and more resilient than ever.

Gary M. Reedy is CEO of the Atlanta-based American Cancer Society and American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network. Cancer patients, caregivers and survivors needing information can find it at cancer.org.

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