Grayson County citizens who have an urgent need may be eligible for assistance through the Grayson County Emergency Relief Fund. Created in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the relief fund is an ongoing funding pool designed to assist county citizens with emergencies that do not fall under other existing entities to provide relief. Citizens may inquire about emergency relief funding by calling the county’s help line, which is (276) 200-4654. The fund is made up entirely of donations, which are tax-deductible.
Inspiration for the fund stemmed from a citizens’ need, identified by Department of Social Services Director Kristin Shumate. “We were setting up a lot quickly as COVID reared its ugly head in late February and March of last year,” Hoyle said. “We had set up the helpline to make ourselves more aware of the public’s needs in regard to COVID-19, and plug them into the appropriate resources to help them. We had a situation that was medical in nature, a minor need that did not fall into any of the normal resources we have. It was transportation-based, and it was something that could literally be resolved with $20.” While there was plenty of financial aid response to COVID-19 in the Grayson County area, some issues were slipping through the cracks. “We put our heads together, after realizing there should be a way to help people with a small need that doesn’t fall into any particular category.”
Kathy Cole, president of Grayson LandCare and an instrumental figure in setting up the county’s helpline, joined in the effort. They approached the county administration to identify a way to provide this resource for the community. “We didn’t know what the needs would be for something like this, but we wanted to meet them and not put anyone off for months at a time. In the end, we decided to create a non-profit emergency relief fund,” said Hoyle.
The funding pool is made up entirely of donations, which directly help Grayson citizens in need. If someone has a problem that requires a fast response, and no other resources are available to help, they may be eligible to benefit from the relief fund. “To be eligible, the person must be a Grayson County resident, and be able to provide proof of that. Aside from that, we will do our due diligence to make sure that their need is legitimate,” Hoyle said.
Until recently, the funding was managed by employees of the county but now they are establishing a small citizen board to oversee the funds. Kathy Cole and Mary Nell MacPherson, active members of Grayson LandCare, sit on this Board, along with representatives from first-line responders, Mt. Rogers Mental Health, and local churches. The county will still be involved in the process as it grows; and Finance Director Leesa Gayheart will continue to monitor the progress and make sure all guidelines are met in regards to the funding.
“The people who are most likely to know of emergencies like this are our first responders, which would come to either Paul or Kristin; and they will be authorized to use prepaid debit cards up to a certain amount, on their own assessment of the situation,” Cole explained. While it is impossible to identify every need that would fall into the nature of eligibility for this funding, Hoyle gave a few examples. “We were looking at things like loss of heating or communication. Something that is a one-time need and is fast-acting,” Hoyle explained. “For example, during the recent cold snap that came through, we had a resident who didn’t have any heating. We were able to resolve that in less than 24 hours.”
Even though it was initially designed with the pandemic in mind, “We eventually took COVID out of the name because [when this pandemic is over, there might still be a personal emergency or even a community-wide emergency such as a flood or a power outage,” Cole said. “I see us being like the local Red Cross—receiving local donations and being able to offer assistance quickly.”
For the resource to continue being available, however, it will need ongoing help from the community. Hoyle and Cole shared their confidence in the future success of the helpline, due to the generosity they’ve seen from the Grayson County community — especially in the past year. “Ever since we established the helpline, every other call we’ve received is someone calling on behalf of a neighbor. It’s truly amazing to see the level of care for one another in this county,” said Hoyle.“Anyone can donate, and we encourage them to,” said Cole, noting that all donations are tax-deductible and that 100% of the money will go to help a local member of the community in need. “I’ve seen how eager people are to help. Food Independence has been swamped with so many volunteers, they are having to rotate them. I think people are eager to contribute however they can. By donating to this fund, they can rest assured that their money will be carefully spent, and that it will go to their neighbors who are in true need.”
Cole suggests that people receiving the stimulus checks who have been fortunate and not lost income during the pandemic donate all or part of that check to the Emergency Relief Fund, knowing that it will be used to help our neighbors in need.
Bill Shepley, county administrator, expressed his appreciation to everyone involved in the creation of the relief fund. “To everyone who made this happen — Paul, Kathy, Kristen and all the volunteers — I can’t say enough about the amazing community we have here in Grayson County,” said Shepley. “One of the best things about this county is how willing everyone is to help each other.”
Members of the community who wish to donate to the relief fund may write checks payable to “Emergency Relief Fund for Grayson County,” and mail them to the Grayson County Treasurer’s Office, P.O. Box 127, Independence, Va. 24348; or drop them off in the treasurer’s office dropbox located in the lower parking lot of the Grayson County Courthouse. Donations are tax-deductible. For more information about the Grayson County Emergency Relief Fund, call the helpline at (276) 200-4654.
This article was adapted from a newspaper article written by Shaina Stockton.
Special thanks to our own GLC president Kathy Cole for her work in this effort!