Michael Reese: Responding in a Pandemic


When Illinois’ stay-at-home order was issued in early March, millions of people and thousands of businesses in our state were impacted in ways we never could have anticipated.

Through these past seven months the actions of our friends, neighbors, grantee partners, philanthropic partners and each of you have been endlessly inspiring. 

“Our grantee partners do invaluable work in the Chicagoland area. Although they may not be recognized as such, they are front-line workers who address the health and social needs of individuals most impacted by COVID-19,” said Jennifer M. Rosenkranz, MA, Director of Grant Programs at Michael Reese Health Trust.

To support our grantee partners throughout the pandemic, we at Michael Reese shifted the way we work.

In addition to contributing to the Chicago Community COVID-19 Response Fund, we encouraged our grantee partners to use our grants in flexible ways to meet immediate needs. We also extended deadlines for grant applications and decreased reporting requirements to give our partners more time to deliver their missions.

In September, we provided capacity-building grants to 15 organizations in Chicago and Cook County.

“Because of COVID-19, our partners are being stretched to the limit both financially and technologically, while also experiencing an increased demand for services. There is a significant need for emergency housing for people experiencing homelessness. Calls to domestic violence hotlines are at rates we’ve never seen before because people are trapped at home with their abusers,” said Rosenkranz.

“Michael Reese’s capacity-building grants will allow our grantee partners to invest in organizational infrastructure to help them effectively deliver their missions in a time when we desperately need their services.”

Projects like improving technological capacity to do remote work will allow Between Friends to provide critical domestic violence services remotely and effectively respond to the increased need for their services.

Casa Central will expand their employee wellness program, addressing the impact of COVID-19 on their primarily Latinx staff members. Funds will support employee access to domestic violence services and incorporate new health and wellness centered virtual events, supporting staff so they can continue to do their jobs under increased stress.

Other organizations will use this one-time grant to shift their services to virtual platforms. Erie Family Health Center will create a West Side Adolescent Care Hub prioritizing teens ability to virtually access healthcare. As school-based health clinics continue to remain closed or operate at minimum capacity during the school year, this platform will facilitate access to care via text messaging, an especially popular way of connecting with teenagers.

While the projects these grants fund range in type from technology enhancements, leadership development and employee wellness, each organization is working hard and effectively to address both internal and external needs in a constantly shifting world.

In the wake of multiple crises created by COVID-19, it’s become clear the people and organizations most affected by the virus have been the very same ones leading us through the pandemic with resiliency, strength, innovation and determination. We are proud to work alongside them.

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