In each segment of the session, Hoff put a vital question to the group.
Question 1: What are your biggest challenges and accomplishments so far?
Panelists agreed that the last eight weeks have seen a remarkable transition from serving overarching needs to combating this emergency in an “expedient, triage-based manner.”
Pastor Simmons noted that Cornerstone has seen a 125 percent increase in service at its soup kitchen, and at one point was seeing homeless people who “hadn’t had a shower or a change of clothes in seven weeks.” Cornerstone met those demands, while also figuring out ways to safely feed children and others without exposing them to the virus. Small nonprofits, Simmons said—neighborhood groups, churches and other trusted community resources—will see most of the fallout from the virus, and will need ramped-up funding to keep up.
Glover, of The Meadows Foundation, stressed “the deep importance for charitable infrastructures to be well-capitalized and strong in good times. When we see emergencies like this deep, unprecedented event, the ability to respond will be as strong as our infrastructures. Our most marginalized populations were already in situations of both inequity and lack of resources, and now that has been compounded. It is incumbent on us to step up [in the future], with the collaborative spirit” that’s already been shown.
At TI Foundation, West said, “We looked immediately at where we could put our dollars so they would do the most good. This pandemic will have a once-in-a-hundred-years impact in terms of human health.” As of Monday, she said, TI’s foundation, corporation and employees had donated around $10 million worldwide.
Hoff summed up panel members’ sentiment: “All of these issues have been bubbling under the surface for a long time, maybe not even too far under the surface. Now the ball is in our court.”
Question 2: You’ve all been significant partners for United Way and our community. What have been some of your most important resources and partnerships during this crisis?
Pastor Simmons called out the word of the day: “collaboration, collaboration, collaboration! We all have limited resources, and instead of reinventing the wheel, it’s about becoming a student of what’s available so we can share those resources out,” he said. “United Way has been a major partner with us, living up to that name of uniting those organizations in bringing relief.”
All four panelists said United Way’s early assessment of local needs related to the crisis helped fuel the way their sectors responded.
Glover, with The Meadows Foundation, gave special props to Ashley Brundage, Senior Vice President, Community Impact at United Way Dallas, as an example of productive teamwork. “The many late-night phone calls have been unprecedented,” he said, “and they result in real things. We were able to host one of the first PPP (Paycheck Protection Plan) seminars for a lot of small nonprofits that were having trouble accessing banks. We were able to push those things out through the network that had been built through North Texas Cares.”
Question 3: What have you learned to take with you into the future?
“What I’ve learned is that people can learn all the time,” Hoff said. “We all had these ideas, concepts—that a grant process has to take three to six months, that you could never have really meaningful discussions via technology—and those ideas have changed in a flash.”
West said that vital word, collaboration, is the single most important concept she’s come away with. “It’s collaboration on the home front. No matter the missteps, the rhetoric, or the finger-pointing that go on at the national level, it is the local response that counts most for people, where the needs are known. The volume of help and the speed at which it’s coming are really a testament to the power of what can get done when we all do work together.”
Also, she noted, “The societal gaps, we’ve known they’re there, but this once-in-a-100-year disaster has shone a light on them, and we cannot let that light dim or go out. We have to keep the intensity level up, to keep understanding those gaps and tackling them.”
Both McGough and Simmons emphasized connectedness. “This idea of us vs. them—this virus has shown that to be an absolutely false narrative,” McGough said. “It’s about how you can love your neighbor the best. Sometimes it’s the person right next to you, or across the city from you. Everything becomes about trust, relationship and history with folks.”
Simmons said the key word going forward will be access: to livable wages, health care, decent and affordable housing, workforce development and more.
Question 4: How can we help drive equitable, long-lasting recovery and rebuilding for all North Texans?
Panelists wholeheartedly agreed that these problems aren’t going away, and may indeed become worse. “We’ve made progress, but we’re not out of this,” McGough said. “We’re not even close to out of the woods. We still don’t know what the future looks like. That’s the biggest question we—as a collective, as the city of Dallas—have to answer. We have to really look at what data sources we’re relying on to drive resources, to do the most good in the shortest period of time, while also setting us up for long-term success.”
Hoff ended on a high note: “Let’s not go back to normal, but back to the way things should be.”