Perseverance has been this winter’s watchword. As I sit in a Boston buried by four consecutive blizzards, I think of all the human, natural and built systems that have had to endure this winter. The region’s public transit system, our school calendar, roads, snow removal budgets, the local economy and our most vulnerable residents have all suffered the in the record-breaking cold and snow.
The nonprofit sector has been responding to the needs created by this epic winter. The Greater Boston Food Bank’s food distribution to over 500 agencies has been hampered and delayed by the snow, as has access to the food pantries on which so many people rely. Yet volunteers are stepping up to help, and agencies are expanding hours to meet the demand. The City’s annual homeless census, itself postponed once because of the weather, revealed a population continuing to struggle this winter and service providers working hard to keep up with escalating demand.
Philanthropy can and should be persistent, too. Savvy individuals and foundations will continue to respond to these needs. We encourage our clients to talk with their grantees and ask them how they are faring this winter. Some writers have even likened this winter to a natural disaster, and called for a disaster-relief response to this “Winter from Hell.” Just as in any “disaster,” there are short term opportunities to support the spike in demand created by the weather, as well as longer term funding needs to address systemic issues. The need for philanthropy, government, businesses and nonprofits to work together toward shared solutions is evident; transportation reform and impacts of climate change are just two issues for deeper scrutiny this spring.
Luckily, Bostonians and New Englanders are a persistent and creative lot. Boston’s Mayor Marty Walsh’s Office of Economic Development has launched “Boston Bingo” to encourage residents to support local businesses which were hit particularly hard this winter. The City of Somerville is having a Space Saver contest, asking its residents and local artists to propose creative reuse of those persistent space savers. Even our office is hosting a “Worst Commute Ever” story contest. These efforts are designed to lift our collective spirits, connect us to what makes this city and region strong and help to bide our time until spring. Baseball’s Spring Training has already begun, and the Boston Marathon is just 48 days away. Maybe the snowbanks will be melted by then?