Buffalo County Community Response Team, is a collaborative built on Buffalo County Community Partners collective impact backbone, formed during the COVID-19 pandemic aimed at connecting people in need of basic supports of food, housing, and health care
resources. Community Partners received $157,494 of funding from three major donors and local community donations. Funds donated by these foundations supported the infrastructure to start the new collaborative as well as build a pool of flex funds to support basic needs of individuals in Buffalo County. Foundations who supported this project include, Ron and Carol Cope Foundation donating $10,000 toward school aged children mental health services, Nebraska Children and Families Foundation $51,491 to support the flex fund and $50,000 to support food insecurity and over $2,000 to support hotel/motel vouches for near homeless, Peter Kiewit Foundation $40,000, and local donations from the community $4,003.
As of June 30, $89,000 were allocated in flex funds to 14,021 individuals in need of services for housing, food, internet, mental health and health care, including 4,633 children under the age of 18 years. Of the funds, 73% went to direct services for individuals affected by Covid-19 while 27% went towards developing the infrastructure and capacity to serve needs.
Food Boxes were supplemented by protein provided by Community Response Team Funds.
The flex funds supported a variety of different needs in the community. 14% of the funds went towards residents housing needs, 54% helped community members with food insecurity, and 23% went towards mental health needs like teletherapy for those that are uninsured or underinsured.
Denise Zwiener, Executive Director Community Partners said, “A larger amount of flex fund resources have gone to food insecurity due to early efforts to get protein out to over 1500 Buffalo County residents each week through 35 local food pantries.”
There were also funds for laptops to support connectivity and education. “It has been helpful for me (to get a laptop), because it helps me continue taking my GED classes. There’s a website named, “new readers” that I can practice my English at any time. Being a mom means any free time you can get, and we don’t have those really often, but I have been practicing and I really like it,” said a community member who received a laptop.
The Community Response approach relies on collaborative partners who pledge to serve and support families in the
Food delievered to Community Action Partnership Food Bank. Lots of volunteers helped each week to unpack and repack food for distribution to other partners.
community. Community Response has united existing service providers together to find appropriate funding for individuals. If no funding is found, then the flexible funding is intended to provide funding based on each situation.
Donna Martin, Adult Education Coordinator Central Community College, accepts laptops for 4 students so they can finish their GED programs this summer.
Erin Davis, South Central Area Agency on Aging, said, “The Agencies in Kearney have always had great communication, but the Community Response Team gives us more time and opportunities to connect from our homes or offices (right now via Zoom). It has been beneficial to not only know what is going on with funding opportunities for the people we serve, but also a great opportunity to collaborate and brainstorm different situations with other agency representatives.”
The Community Response Central Navigators, Wanda Fedorchik and Martha Marfileno (bilingual navigator), process and determine funding eligibility and availability. Community agencies reach out to the Navigators for assistance with clients that potentially need multiple different services. The team helps refer to existing services/resources in the community or identify potential gaps in services. In the event of a gap in services, the emergency flex funds were used.
The Community Response Team has played a critical role in bringing cooperation and collaboration among agencies as they work together to fit the needs of our community members. “COVID-19 has shown our community where we really need help. I think the biggest value (of Community Response) is being able to combine all of our knowledge and expertise to provide the best possible services and care to individuals in our communities,” Davis said.
The unforeseen circumstances surrounding COVID-19 expedited the need for the Buffalo County Community Response Team. The donations received kickstarted the process. The need for this type of collaboration and flex funding continues beyond COVID-19. If you are interested in supporting the collaboration you can donate at bcchp.org/donate.
On March 20, 2020, volunteers from these agencies met with Nebraska Children and Family to develop a Buffalo County Community Response Team: United Way of the Kearney Area, Mid Nebraska Community Action Partners, Buffalo County schools, Educational Service Unit #10, Kearney Area Community Foundation, Region 3 Behavioral Health Services, University of Nebraska at Kearney, Kearney Works, City of Kearney, Villages of Buffalo County, Law Enforcement, South Central Area Agency on Aging, Kearney Area Community Foundation, SAFE Center, Buffalo County Rooted in Relationships, HealthyMINDS Collaborative, Be Well Collaborative and Buffalo County Community Partners. Additional agencies and individuals are welcome to this planning table.
Buffalo County Community Partners is a non-profit organization that seeks to assess, strengthen, and promote the health of Buffalo County through the promotion of the Buffalo County 2020 Vision. The 2020 Vision introduces community targets for attainment by the year 2020. For more information on how you can assist in building a healthier Buffalo County, visit bcchp.org.