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Community Foundation’s $35,000 Grant Boosts HCC Student Emergency Fund

HOLYOKE — After COVID-19 broke, applications to the President’s Student Emergency Fund at Holyoke Community College (HCC) soared. The fund, established by President Christina Royal through the HCC Foundation, is meant to assist students facing unanticipated financial burdens, such as a lack of affordable housing, childcare expenses, and transportation.

For the 2019-20 academic year, 93% of student requests to the fund have come since mid-March. As HCC transitioned to remote learning, nearly $25,000 has been distributed to help students facing income loss and struggling to pay their bills in the midst of the pandemic.

“We are talking about an average gift of $500,” said Amanda Sbriscia, HCC vice president of Institutional Advancement and executive director of the HCC Foundation, the college’s nonprofit fundraising corporation. “That is often the difference between staying on a path to a college degree or never being able to return to the classroom. Studying and learning remotely has meant added an unanticipated expenses for our students. Faster internet, upgraded technology, housing and food costs, utility bills — seemingly simple shifts in daily life are easy to manage for some, but for many HCC students, they can derail their entire education.”

This week, the President’s Student Emergency Fund at HCC received a $35,000 boost in the form of a grant from the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts (CFWM) designated for COVID-19 relief. The HCC Foundation was one of 29 area nonprofits receiving financial assistance in the latest round of COVID-19 relief funds from the Community Foundation.

“You are receiving this grant thanks in part to funding from the Massachusetts COVID-19 Relief Fund,” Jim Ayres, CFWM vice president for Programs & Strategy, said in an e-mail to Sbriscia. “The Massachusetts COVID-19 Relief Fund works in concert with regional community foundations and nonprofit leaders to support those across the state most impacted by the COVID-19 health crisis, focusing on essential frontline workers and vulnerable populations, including the homeless, immigrant populations, people with disabilities, and those facing food insecurity.”

With the Community Foundation grant, the HCC Foundation has now raised $72,480 for the President’s Student Emergency Fund since late March when it launched the “TogetherHCC” fundraising campaign in response to the pandemic, placing the total amount of dollars available for student relief at $190,000.

The largest single donation to the campaign was $20,000 from HCC alumna Margaret “Peg” Wendlandt (’58) and her husband, Gary, who have supported the emergency fund since it was established three years ago. The rest of the contributions have come in much smaller increments from 160 individual donors and area businesses.

“We are so grateful to the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts, our alumni, and HCC employees and friends for believing in the power of our emergency fund to help our students,” Sbriscia said. “In one way or another, all our students have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The sense of relief and comfort we’re able to provide thanks to the generosity of so many is honestly life-changing for them.”

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