When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, a statewide lockdown in March and April forced non-essential businesses to close, putting employees out of work and creating financial hardship for many of the nearly 16,000 residents of Washburn County in northwest Wisconsin. Businesses needed support, families needed food and residents needed to know they were not alone.
A nonprofit is created to lead the way
Representatives of the Washburn County Health and Human Services Department, Washburn County Mental Health Task Force, Lakeland Family Resource Center and Spooner Memorial Library collaborated to create an organization, Community First Washburn County, which eventually became a 501(c)(3) nonprofit.
The new organization raised money through grants, fundraisers and donations. A $10,000 grant from Marshfield Clinic kicked off the effort, with the funds used to buy toilet paper, cleaning supplies and games from the local businesses that had to shut down during the lockdown. The Spooner Memorial Library, also closed to the public, became the staging area to assemble care packages.
An “Outrun the Virus” fundraiser drew $40,000, including a $14,000 contribution from a local bank. The money helped establish a supplemental meal program, buying the meals from closed restaurants and delivering them to families in need. In addition, the Washburn County Highway Department provided locations for Farmers to Families food box distributions.