Post-it notes seen all around downtown Thursday. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)

Nanaimo, Tom Harris foundations launch fund for COVID-19 charitable relief

Nanaimo Community Response Fund launches with $150,000 initially

Two non-profit organizations in Nanaimo are teaming to launch a relief fund for charities during the COVID-19 pandemic and hope the public can join in offering support.

The Nanaimo Foundation and Tom Harris Community Foundation announced they are launching the Nanaimo Community Response Fund, providing financial assistance to charities in the Nanaimo, Lantzville, Ladysmith, Cedar and Gabriola Island area aiding in efforts related to coronavirus, with an initial $150,000. While the fund’s purpose will adapt to address areas of most need, Laurie Bienert, Nanaimo Foundation executive director, said it will initially deal with food security, assistance for vulnerable seniors and housing for low-income families affected by COVID-19 related closures.

The goal is to raise money on an ongoing basis and continue to support the changing needs of the community during the crisis, said Bienert.

“In speaking with organizations on the front lines serving our vulnerable populations, as well as with other local funders and conveners, such as United Way of Central and Northern Vancouver Island, we are able to understand what the most critical needs currently are in our community,” said Bienert. “The fund will help front-line agencies focus on serving those needs, while the foundation can focus on bringing the community together to support them.”

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Money will be distributed through a panel of community advisors and Bienert said the foundation had received many calls for help since the pandemic was declared.

“This is hugely affecting our charitable sector and just the number of people who need support now,” said Bienert. “Programs are having to be shifted to accommodate this massive crisis and just the number of vulnerable people in the community has increased tremendously, so we’ve received a lot of requests from local organizations for support and as a community foundation, we’re really trying to take seriously our role to support our community.”

In a press release, Tony Harris, son of Tom Harris, said help is needed in this time of crisis.

“Presently the coronavirus has created profound uncertainty leaving countless people in our community needing a hand up,” said Tony Harris. “People know we are in this together and thus we must come together to ensure we get through this together.”

An online application will be available at the Nanaimo Foundation website,, and information on how to donate has already been posted.

As of Friday morning, close to $10,000 of additional money has been raised, said Bienert.

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