One of the great things about establishing a fund for charitable giving is its ability to support causes that are important to the fundholder. Priorities and needs may change and evolve over time, but in the end the fundholder’s advice and input are the heart and soul of the fund’s real impact.

When the pandemic hit, many donor-advised fundholders stepped up to support relief efforts for organizations near and far. One fund in particular set out on a mission to combat one of the main pressure points that the community felt: food insecurity. The Utica National Group Foundation Fund had already donated more than $75,000 to assist with food needs, but the fund advisors were looking for a way to help not one, not two, but many food pantries and soup kitchens throughout Herkimer and Oneida counties.

“During these most difficult times, helping to minimize the food insecurity in our communities and helping local restaurants weather the storm was vital,” said Bernard Turi, Utica National Group senior vice president, general counsel, general auditor, and chief risk officer. “We appreciate all that the nonprofit organizations do on a daily basis for everyone, and this was our way of giving back to them.” 

To get the project off the ground, Community Foundation Donor Relations Manager Lindsey Costello researched community needs, providing fund advisors with some insight into what relief organizations were experiencing.

 “We heard directly from food pantries and soup kitchens about the increase in visitors and what they feared the coming months would bring,” Costello said. “That assessment helped inform Utica National Foundation’s funding strategy.” 

A plan was put into place to help nearly three dozen soup kitchens and food pantries providing nourishment to families in need, and $250,000 was divided among the organizations and used to provide individual meals from local restaurants to soup kitchens and restock food pantry shelves with essentials. Many area restaurants participated including the Phoenician, Crazy Otto’s Empire Diner, Boneyard BBQ and Pumpernickel's Deli. 

From a simple idea the fund effort grew into an investment that helped so many families, nonprofits that serve them and local eateries. All in all, a great demonstration of what donors can accomplish working side by side with The Community Foundation.

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