“If we are going to get through this pandemic, and we haven’t done it yet and are maybe about to enter the worst period, we need these front-line workers,” said Walter Smith, D.C. Appleseed’s executive director. “We need them on the job because they are serving all of us.”
Through the website, www.frontlineworkersdc.org, supplies such as N95 masks, protective glasses and cash can be funneled to workers through nonprofits such as Bread for the City, Mary’s Center, Martha’s Table, the Leadership Council for Healthy Communities and DC Dream Center.
“We didn’t want D.C. Appleseed to be in the business of taking the money and figuring out what to do with it,” Smith said. “So we contracted with nonprofits on the ground who are already supporting people like these workers.”
The project stems from a report by D.C. Appleseed, commissioned by the Greater Washington Community Foundation and published earlier this year that examined the needs among workers in the D.C. area as the pandemic gripped the region’s economy.
Along with pro bono partners at the law firms Hogan Lovells, Covington & Burling, DLA Piper and Weil Gotshal & Manges, the organization conducted surveys of workers on the ground, including staff at “nearly every general hospital in the District of Columbia, community health centers, unions, and professional organizations” as well as workers from “childcare, grocery, transportation, sanitation, and postal delivery sectors,” according to the report.
“We found that their needs were in lots of categories, including child care, the need for transportation, and even the need for housing," Smith said. “The other thing we determined was the needs were changing all the time. Different groups had different needs, even from hospital to hospital.”
Mental health support was also one of the most key needs, Smith said.
“These are high-stress jobs and people are working long hours,” he said. “The toll was not only physical but mental and emotional, so the need for mental health support is real.”
The new website offers both general donations as well as more targeted options. For example, a donor looking to help workers with transportation can choose to directly give toward discounted gas; a donor hoping to help with housing can choose to fund Airbnb stays or hotel rooms through Marriott’s “Community Caregiver Program."
One of the aims of the website, Smith explained, was to create a website that could be utilized by anyone interested in giving, both big-dollar corporations and wealthy patrons to ordinary families and individuals chipping in with what they can.
“We’re going into the holiday season, which is not only the time when the needs are greatest, but the time when people reflect more,” he said.