Mercer Island Community Fund Begins 36th Year of Grant-Making for Island Non-profits

November 17, 2020 | by My MI Team

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Photo courtesy Friendship Circle of Washington | David and Max, Friends @ Home program

This month marks the 36th season of grant-making for the Mercer Island Community Fund (MICF), and it is kicking off its annual fundraising effort to collect donations for these grants. For more than three decades, MICF has helped build a vibrant and healthy community for all Mercer Island residents by providing an easy way for islanders to invest in local nonprofits and community needs. To have the greatest positive impact possible, MICF thoughtfully manages and leverages the pooled funds to benefit local programs, services, and organizations that align with MICF’s community mission.

When 2020 began and the COVID pandemic hit the nation and our island, MICF pivoted from its traditional grants strategy to focus on how the virus was wreaking havoc on local businesses and non-profits. The successful WeLoveMI COVID-19 Relief Campaign (www.welovemi.org) was born of this pivot, and MICF led the effort which eventually raised over $250,000 for Mercer Island nonprofits and small businesses.

In addition, MICF independently awarded over $53,000 in grants for COVID-19 relief to Mercer Island nonprofits in 2020. One such grant was $5,740 awarded to the Friendship Circle of Washington for help in covering the increased costs associated with delivering virtual services to its young, special-needs clients.

Friendship Circle of Washington Teen Scene virtual exercise class
Photo courtesy Friendship Circle of Washington | Teen Scene virtual exercise class

With COVID disrupting the daily routines of special needs children, Friendship Circle’s work became more critical as schools closed and social contact was cut off. The MICF grant helped Friendship Circle move its in-person “Sunday Circles” to virtual events. Sunday Circle now serves over 147 special needs children. A Friendship Circle representative explained:

“We are so thankful to the MICF – Mercer Island Community Fund, in helping us during this COVID-19 pandemic. Their funds enabled us to bring vital services to so many families in the special needs community. As one of our parents stated, ‘This has been an extremely difficult time for all of us, as you can imagine, raising a child with special needs – Jonathan is always in a fully structured routine. Virtual Friendship Circle has been a lifesaver!’  So thank you MICF for your partnership and support in impacting the lives of so many in need.”

Other Community Fund COVID relief grants this year included $4,450 to the Mercer Island Farmers Market for help covering increased costs related to strict compliance with rapidly evolving health requirements to keep the market open and keep customers and vendors as safe as possible during the pandemic.  MICF also made a $4,000 grant to Youth Theatre Northwest so that it could prove that the show must go on by providing an engaging, creative virtual experience for its cast and audience.  MICF also awarded larger grants to Mercer Island Youth and Family Services and the Stroum Jewish Community Center this year to support their efforts to meet the needs of our community during the pandemic.

As MICF enters this 2021 fundraising and grant-making season, they are anticipating receiving further COVID relief grant applications from island non-profits. And in addition to the more traditional community-building grants MICF is known for, the MICF Board is actively seeking grants related to diversity, equity, and inclusion.  This effort is in response to the national and local discussions and efforts around diversity, equity, and inclusion. MICF’s all-volunteer board of directors has committed to helping with our island’s efforts to make Mercer Island a more inclusive community and MICF will direct a portion of its 2021 grant funds to programs, events, and organizations that address these issues on the island. 

Now is the time for islanders to give again to the Community Fund. It has recently launched its newly re-designed website and is looking for all islanders to donate at www.micommunityfund.org. Your gift will be used to build a strong, vibrant and healthy local community. Your donation will have a direct impact on the services, programs, and organizations that make up the place that you – and your family, neighbors and friends – call home.  

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