March 27, 2020

What a Difference a Week Makes

By Bob Sorge

Bob Sorge

Wow. What just happened?

If, by chance, you had forgotten how fragile life is, this past week probably served as a reminder. The movement of COVID-19 from distant humanitarian issue to full-on crisis next door feels like it’s taken about two minutes.

Ten days ago we sent out a communications piece about MCF preparations in light of the anticipated COVID-19 crisis.

A week ago, we had reduced our in-office staff to three people, with everyone else working remotely, and our Annual Dinner for May 14 was “tentative.” Schools and the UW were planning to re-open in the beginning of April. Just a few days later it was clear that students would not be returning to school at any level.

Today much of the state is shut down, following Governor Tony Evers' "Safer at Home" orders to minimize potential physical contact with others and slow the spread of COVID-19.

Adjusting to New Routines

In the last few days we have moved our son out of the dorms, and the three of us are trying to find our new routines in separate corners of the house. I don’t think I have ever been as grateful for technology and the internet as I am now. We’ve certainly come along way from my first professional computer – the Apple Macintosh, with its nine inch screen and floppy disk drive.

MCF Sings Happy Birthday on Zoom
MCF staff sing Happy Birthday to Brenda, Connie and Angela during a staff meeting on Zoom.

I am grateful for the continued excellent work of the MCF staff who, while using different closing salutations such as “Strange times,” “Take care,” and “Stay Healthy,” remain productive and positive. MCF operations will continue to function during the crisis – albeit remotely. We will follow Governor Evers’ directions, and at this point plan to re-open the offices on April 27.

The Power of Working Together

One thing that has been impressed on us all by COVID-19 is the need to work together. To get through this pandemic quickly we need to honor a new social contract – to support each other by staying apart. Only time will tell whether we as a country will do this voluntarily, or need to have it imposed on us.

Another part of the social contract currently under review is our ability to work together as institutions for the betterment of our community. Is collaboration real or does it just sound good? We believe its real, and we believe in our partners at United Way of Dane County (UWDC). Historically UWDC has focused on needs (human services: health, employment, housing, etc.) and the Madison Community Foundation has focused on opportunities (libraries, bike trails, community centers, arts, environment, etc.). We both focus on education. United Way has a closer relationship with the institutions that are helping people weather this crisis – and we are encouraging your support of the United Way’s Dane County COVID-19 Emergency and Recovery Fund, which will address health and human services.

MCF, in a complementary way, will be working with nonprofits that fall outside these services. If you’re watching movies, listening to music or reading a book these days, you’re benefitting by the arts, and the performing arts in particular are getting hit hard – right now. The arts are not a luxury - in many cases they’re a lifeline.

If you're enjoying a walk in one of our amazing parks or on one of the area's many trails, you know how crucial the environment is to our wellbeing, and how important it is to continue protecting these community treasures. 

MCF’s COVID-19 Priority Fund will help nonprofits survive this crisis by providing support for evolving operations and connecting these organizations to resources that will help them.

Together we will get through this. Practice social distancing. Leave the toilet paper you don’t need on the shelf for someone who does. Practice empathy – people have a lot of anxiety right now and it can reveal itself in challenging ways. Take care of yourself. And if you can – support the United Way and Madison Community Foundation funds.