The nonprofit receiving the largest grant, $78,180, was the Health and...

The nonprofit receiving the largest grant, $78,180, was the Health and Welfare Council of Long Island, where Rebecca Sanin is president and chief executive. Credit: Newsday / Alejandra Villa Loarca

The Long Island Community Foundation has approved nearly $900,000 for 36 nonprofits that will support projects such as mobile food distribution, mental health counseling, and help families struggling through the COVID-19 pandemic.

The foundation, a philanthropic organization that is a division of the New York Community Trust, said the grants of $896,180 bring the total amount of awards given in 2021 to more than $3.2 million.

"Long Island’s community foundation is committed to ensuring that our region remains a beacon of economic prosperity, acceptance, and opportunity for all as we continue to recover from the pandemic," David Okorn, the foundation's executive director, said in a statement.

The nonprofit receiving the largest grant, $78,180, was the Health and Welfare Council of Long Island — to help families with "long-term recovery needs" related to the pandemic. Marie Smith, spokeswoman for the community foundation, said the grant was from the remaining money in the foundation's COVID-19 Long Island Philanthropic Fund, which at one time topped $1.5 million.

"We’re going to close out the fund now," Smith said of the special COVID-19 fund, while continuing to make community response grants related to the pandemic "through our regular grant-making, as needed." Smith said when the pandemic first hit in March 2020, a COVID-19 fund was created, as many donors wanted to make contributions specific to pandemic relief programs.

"We're very grateful for this funding," said Rebecca Sanin, the welfare council's president and chief executive. She said it will enable the council to expand its program called Community Response Collaborative: Connecting People to Resources and Referrals.

"During COVID-19, early on our staff and other agencies were saying to me that the 20-minute application process is now an hour and a half," Sanin said. "People are desperate and frightened." She said they'd call the council to apply for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, and staff would subsequently learn the family had mental health needs, or couldn't pay the rent.

For families that were already struggling before the pandemic, Sanin said it can take longer for them to recover.

"So we launched this multi-navigation program to help people learn about programs they might qualify for that they might not be aware of," Sanin said. "It’s hard on Long Island. There's tremendous sprawl, no public transportation, lots of different governments … It can be hard to figure out how to navigate."

The community foundation grants, most of which range from $15,000 to $50,000, with many getting $25,000, awarded money to programs in arts and education, such as The Viscardi Center. The center received $25,000 for an alternative education program for at-risk high school students.

Grants were awarded in community development and community response, including $25,000 to the Gurwin Jewish Nursing Home & Rehabilitation Center to address the physical and emotional effects of social isolation of seniors.

Other grants were awarded in conservation and the environment; health and mental health; hunger and homelessness; and youth development.

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