Island Harvest Food Bank, seen in November, and other Long...

Island Harvest Food Bank, seen in November, and other Long Island nonprofits have seen a drop in donations and volunteers since the outbreak of the coronavirus. Credit: Veronique Louis

Many Long Island nonprofit organizations say the coronavirus pandemic has produced a decline in donations and volunteers, or forced some to close because of isolation requirements.

Meanwhile, the Long Island Community Foundation has created the COVID-19 Long Island Philanthropic Response Fund to help nonprofits cope with disruptions to their funding streams during the crisis. The fund would help nonprofits with technology needs, as well as programs dealing with mental health, seniors, food access, immigrant services, and arts and culture, officials said. Interested nonprofits can apply at

And the United Way of Long Island on Friday opened in its COVID-19 emergency assistance fund, United Together — the application can be accessed at — for low-wage unemployed workers, said president and chief executive Theresa A. Regnante. A second phase would assist nonprofits, if the fund has enough resources, she added.

"This pandemic hit a lot of our organizations pretty hard," said Randi Shubin Dresner, president and chief executive of Island Harvest, Long Island's largest food bank. "A lot of people that are normally contributing and supporting financially, or with time and talents, can’t do it." 

Dresner said as some sources of food contributions dried up in the pandemic-induced economic downturn, the food bank had to purchase more food — $600,000 worth in the past two weeks alone. And she anticipates greater need in the weeks ahead.

"We have many people who are very generous," Dresner said. "We are honored they want to support us." But she said things became "complicated" if a donor wanted to restrict a donation to only procuring food. "I can do that," she said. "I still have to pay staff to deliver that food. I still have to pay warehouse expenses to store that food, to put gas in the trucks, and all sorts of other things."

Despite these concerns, Dresner added, "The community needs us and we can’t stop what we’re doing."

Anthony Achong, director of administration and operations of the Long Island Council of Churches food pantry, said the pantry was getting its normal food deliveries from Island Harvest and Long Island Cares. "But a lot of our food comes from member churches' individual donations. We’re not getting people delivering food from the churches." The council is seeking donations at its website

"Today I’m completing an application for a payday loan in case I can’t meet payroll," said Colleen Merlo, executive director of L.I. Against Domestic Violence.

"My story is like every other arts organization around the country," said Regina Gil, founder and executive director of the Gold Coast Arts Center in Great Neck, which has operated for 25 years. "We’re struggling. We're scared. We're thinking about the future."

The nonprofits "are in desperate need right now," said Marie C. Smith, director of communications for the Long Island Community Foundation. She said the foundation had raised about $1 million, with a goal of $5 million.

Sol Marie Alfonso-Jones, the community foundation's senior program officer, said the group wanted to be "as nimble and flexible as we can" in responding to agencies that apply for assistance on its website. "Typically, our due diligence takes four months," but Alfonso-Jones said the goal was to respond in one to two weeks.

The actor Billy Baldwin, a Massapequa native who has long worked with the Long Island Community Foundation to assist his hometown, said he planned to donate to the fund's COVID-19 emergency assistance program, and was "going through my list" to get other celebrities with Long Island or New York connections to donate as well. "Long Island is in my DNA," said Baldwin in a phone interview last week, "And it’s near and dear to my heart."

Latest videos