ZSR Awards $650,000 to Organizations Working to Address Immediate Impacts of COVID-19 in Four Areas Funding to direct assistance; workers’ rights, safety, and conditions; fair, safe, and accessible elections; and innovative, equitable educational opportunities


The Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation has awarded a total of $650,000 over the past few weeks to organizations that are working to address the immediate impacts of COVID-19 in four areas, while maintaining a vision for the future.

These areas include providing direct assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic to some of our state’s most vulnerable populations, including those who sustain much of our essential industries yet are ineligible for government assistance; supporting workers’ rights, safety and conditions given the dire conditions many individuals are working under that have been exacerbated by COVID-19; protecting and strengthening our democratic institutions by ensuring fair, safe and accessible elections this Fall; and supporting innovative, equitable educational opportunities while advancing racial equity, removing barriers and uplifting the strengths of all our students and communities.

“The Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation has continued to listen to the needs of North Carolinians and has been in conversation with nonprofit and philanthropic partners as well as other state and local leaders about how we can be most effective and responsive during this time,” said Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation Executive Director Maurice “Mo” Green. “As we have learned more about this virus, it is becoming increasingly apparent that specific communities are disproportionately impacted by this global pandemic and the compounded economic and health challenges it has wrought. Therefore, from our conversations, four areas have emerged as needing immediate support even as the pandemic continues to impact the lives of so many.”

The names of organizations and the projects to which this funding is going are below, along with a quote from one grant recipient under each of the four areas:

Direct Assistance During the COVID-19 Pandemic

  • Church World Service, Inc. for the Immigrant Solidarity Fund project
  • Western NC Workers’ Center for the Rapid Response Fund project
  • El Pueblo, Inc. for the Mutual Aid Fund for Immigrant Families project
  • NC FIELD, Inc. for the Farmworker FoodBank and Emergency Relief Fund project
  • Episcopal Diocese of East Carolina for the work of the Episcopal Farmworker Ministry for the Emergency Fund for Agricultural Workers project
  • Hispanic Liaison of Chatham County for the Chatham Solidarity Fund project
  • El Centro Hispano, Inc. for the COVID-19 Crisis Response Fund project
  • Blueprint NC for the Black Leaders Organizing Collective’s Ella Baker project
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for the Department of Family Medicine’s NC Formerly Incarcerated Transition (NCFIT) Program

“Immigrant agricultural workers have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic,” said Lariza Garzón, executive director of Episcopal Farmworker Ministry. “We are very grateful for Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation support, which will allow us to provide financial aid to families who lost work, had unexpected medical bills, or lost a loved one due to COVID-19. For many of these families, our fund is the only source of relief during these difficult times.”

Workers’ Rights, Safety and Conditions

  • Western NC Workers’ Center to support the efforts to increase digital organizing and staff capacity project
  • Hispanic Liaison of Chatham County to support the efforts to increase staff capacity to implement know-your-rights and community organizing project
  • NC Farmworkers Project to support the Farmworker Advocacy Network efforts in poultry and meat processing facilities in North Carolina project
  • NC Justice Center to support the NC Families Care Coalition’s Small Grants Program

“As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to wreak havoc, Western NC Workers’ Center holds strong to its commitment to support each other collectively to overcome the shocking consequences of this pandemic,” said Hunter Ogletree and Magaly Urdiales, co-directors of the Western NC Workers’ Center. “While Latinx immigrant workers are beginning to return to work as the ‘economy reopens,’ many immigrant workers are still feeling the adverse economic impacts of the pandemic. What is more, many immigrant workers who are returning to work or who have worked throughout the entirety of the pandemic are finding that their workplaces are not taking the necessary steps to keep workers safe. Latinx immigrant workers in Western NC are getting sick from COVID-19, and some are dying. The support from Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation will help provide direct financial assistance to workers suffering either economically or from a health standpoint from the pandemic and to organize workers virtually for them to defend their rights to a healthy and safe workplace.” 

Fair, Safe and Accessible Elections

  • Blueprint NC for its projects convening voter advocacy and mobilization groups, which includes a diverse group of organizations providing leadership on voter protection and democracy work throughout the state and who are working collaboratively with each other, with the State Board of Elections and with a broad array of groups to conduct voter mobilization

“The public health crisis imposes real pressures on our election system and on voting access,” said Tomas Lopez, executive director of Democracy North Carolina and member organization of this project. “These include the ways in which it exacerbates existing barriers most frequently experienced by Black and brown North Carolinians. Lowering and enabling voters to overcome these barriers is urgent work, and this support will help local and state groups do that.”

Innovative, Equitable Educational Opportunities

  • The Innovation Project (TIP) for its Solutions Creators Action Network, which includes TIP leaders and a diverse group of outside partners, who are committed to rethinking, reimagining and redesigning public education, with equity at the forefront with support from the State Board of Education and other local leaders

“Equity is not a program or a bullet on a strategic plan. And it is not just the responsibility of people with equity in their title,” said Dr. Tony Jackson, superintendent of Vance County Schools and board chair for The Innovation Project. “Equity encompasses our most deeply held beliefs and moral commitments to ensure opportunities for each and every child and each and every community to thrive.” Ann McColl, co-founder and CEO of The Innovation Project further explained, “This is a project of hope. Through a learner-entered approach, we can enable our students to chart their own path, within the context of where they are now and where they hope to be. It gives us a way to recognize and address the extraordinary challenges our students are currently experiencing in the COVID-19 pandemic and from structural racism in our society exposed through the killing of George Floyd and others.”

Earlier this Spring, the Foundation awarded $100,000 in direct assistance grants to six food banks ($15,000 each for a total of $90,000) that collectively covered the state and to the Diaper Bank of NC ($10,000). The Foundation also had provided $50,500 to the COVID-19 Response Fund of Forsyth County, which provides resources to 501(c)(3) organizations that support vulnerable populations.