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“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”
- Sir Winston Churchill
Never have those words from long ago been more apropos of the devastation felt by many members of the Las Vegas community and the collective response by non-profit organizations and leading philanthropists to help overcome the fallout from the COVID health crisis.
Las Vegas and greater southern Nevada have been the epicenter of the stark financial fallout from the COVID crisis. Safety restrictions continue to wreak havoc on the valley’s primary financial engine, tourism, which is dependent on people gathering together. An unemployment rate of 3.9% in February skyrocketed to over 34% in April after fears associated with the COVID pandemic turned the Strip into a surreal ghost town of closed resorts. That rate has gradually improved, but the rebound has been as slow as any in the nation. The jobless rate sits at 12.6% through September.
Many of our clients’ families in Nevada who are charitably inclined are shocked at the repercussions of the pandemic. They are particularly concerned about the effects on the disadvantaged families in the area, who without proactive support are facing a crisis ranging from missing large blocks of school to going hungry. Working together with a number of these families and the non-profit organizations they support, we supported many of the charities that are addressing these issues.
“It is important for us to serve the community at this time,” says Boys and Girls Clubs of Southern Nevada President and CEO Andy Bischel. “We feel an obligation to fulfill our mission by opening our doors to many new kids with families adversely affected by the COVID health crisis.”
The challenge of young students having to attend school virtually is keeping them focused and on schedule. A key deliverable that is often overlooked, according to Bischel, is the attention to character and leadership that is proactively taught at each of their 13 club locations throughout Clark County. “Education should be more than just the traditional topics taught in schools.”
“We’ve been able to collaborate with the Clark County School District to help hundreds of students successfully complete the curriculum provided by teachers,” Bischel reports. “Parents who otherwise would be faced with the very difficult decision to either remain home and not work or leave their child unattended as they go to school virtually are using our services during school days to ensure a complete educational experience for their child.”
Charlene Blackstone is the state director of Best Buddies Nevada, a non-profit dedicated to the training and support of adult “participants” with intellectual development disabilities. “COVID has provided the perspective of isolation for all of us that simulates what it is actually like all of the time for our participants who are lacking in regular social and employment encounters,” says Blackstone. Local school district support for these adults ends abruptly at age 22, and in the absence of support organizations like Best Buddies, these individuals find it challenging to be engaged, productive members of the local community, especially as COVID limits employment opportunities.
“Our jobs program, which has the objective of matching the interests and skills of program participants with the open job positions of employer partners, has faced difficulties stemming from our economic lockdown,” according to Blackstone. “The fact that our employer partners remain open to hiring our participants, despite these challenges, speaks to their commitment to a culture of inclusion.”
Matthew Frazier, a trustee of the Kish Foundation, a Las Vegas-based private non-profit, says the shift of the foundation to focus on those adversely impacted by COVID, particularly furloughed workers, was prompted by stories from friends about food lines. “We felt an obligation to support organizations like Three Square and The Center LGBTQ who helped provide food to those who were struggling to feed their families.”
And the philanthropy of Frazier and others has been felt throughout Clark County as well as the Navajo Nation, which is spread out across Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah. “The need for basics during this health crisis among the most impoverished is startling. Daily necessities like dry goods and cleaning supplies are often taken for granted but can’t be overlooked when providing support,” according to Frazier.
Frazier also is the founder and president of Social CirKish, a local non-profit organization established to help school-age children use their time productively while learning performing skills. For the last six years, Social CirKish has funded a widely-attended annual performance at UNLV. In the midst of a global pandemic, however, plans had to be dramatically scaled back but the show still went on. “There is no doubt it was far more difficult to pull this off while adhering to the governor’s mandates, but everyone involved felt this would be a good example for the kids on what you can accomplish in life despite significant obstacles,” he noted.
There have been a few silver linings among the otherwise dismal news the Las Vegas community has been confronted with. The Animal Foundation, traditionally at capacity with stray dogs and cats, has seen much space at their shelter created by increased demand for fostering and adopting pets. “With many locked down at home and having extra time on their hands, many have chosen to bring a furry friend into their lives,” Frazier says.
Despite the overwhelming challenges Las Vegas and Southern Nevada have faced in 2020, the help, assistance, and contributions from a variety of local charities have not only positively impacted the lives of many grateful beneficiaries, but also fulfilled the lives of those in a position to give. “Our doors are open,” Bischel reiterates. “If you can get to one of our 13 locations, we are here to serve and help you.”
Andy Ferguson is founder and CEO of Proquility Private Wealth Partners, an independent registered investment advisor based in Las Vegas, NV.
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