Relief Fund grant ensures local families get helping hand

group loading boxes with food

By Melanie Cost, Jessie Ball duPont Fund

For more than 100 years, Jewish Family & Community Services (JFCS) has supported Jacksonville neighbors with a variety of social and community services to enhance the lives of children, adults, seniors and families coping with challenges.

JFCS programs – available to anyone in the First Coast community – focus on child welfare, counseling, parenting, dropout prevention, emergency financial assistance and culturally responsive services for members of the Jewish community as well as direct support via a food pantry and children’s clothes closet. JFCS is a longstanding partner to many other nonprofits in Northeast Florida, including the United Way and Catholic Charities.

Now, during the COVID-19 pandemic, JFCS remains committed to continuing to provide essential safety net services to families across the First Coast as needs rise in the face of changing employment and the impacts of social distancing.

JFCS is meeting the increased needs by providing counseling by teletherapy, continuing to operate its Max Block Food Pantry, coordinating food and transportation for isolated Holocaust Survivors, and offering other virtual services.

JFCS recently received a $50,000 grant from the First Coast Relief Fund to support direct financial assistance for families who are facing financial hardship as a result of the pandemic.

Florida’s First Coast Relief Fund was created in 2016 to help nonprofit organizations serve individuals and families in need during a community crisis. To help those most affected by COVID-19 disruption, The Community Foundation for Northeast Florida, Jessie Ball duPont Fund, Jewish Federation and Foundation of Northeast Florida, United Way of Northeast Florida and United Way of St. Johns County re-activated the Relief Fund March 16.

The Relief Fund is providing much-needed resources to struggling families by supporting local organizations, like JFCS, who deliver essential human services to residents disproportionately burdened by this public health crisis.

“For so many families who are now facing unemployment, reduced hours at work, lost wages and tips, mounting bills to pay and scarcity of everyday resources, the resources available to Jewish Family & Community Services from Florida’s First Coast Relief Fund are serving as a critical safety net,” said Colleen Rodriguez, chief executive officer of JFCS. “Families who were already at the tipping point before the pandemic are now living in survival mode. The assistance they receive through the grant from Florida’s First Coast Relief Fund helps them have one less worry at the end of the day.”

A JFCS client whose wife is physically disabled echoed that sentiment after receiving financial assistance supported by Florida’s First Coast Relief Fund.

“Thank you so much for helping us,” the client said. “There’s no work for me now, but we still have bills to pay.”

JFCS is one of hundreds of local nonprofits affected by COVID-19 disruption. Grants like the one from Florida’s First Coast Relief Fund are critical for nonprofits like JFCS to continue offering their portfolio of services.

At this time, the Relief Fund has raised nearly $3 million and helped nearly 20 local nonprofits serving those disproportionally affected by COVID-19. More grants are pending. For timely updates, visit the Community Impact webpage. To make a gift to Florida’s First Coast Relief Fund, visit

Filed under: Success Stories

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