Board of Directors – 2021
James C. Daniels, CPA, Chair
Of Counsel, Davidson Fox & Company
Whitney Racketa, Vice Chair
Senior Career Advisor, School of Management, Binghamton University
Paul F. Wood, Secretary
Trust Officer, Community Bank, N.A.
Tyrone Muse, Treasurer
President/CEO, Visions Federal Credit Union
Dr. Tomás Aguirre
Vice President of Student Life and Chief Diversity Officer, SUNY Delhi
Dr. Laura Bronstein
Dean, College of Community and Public Affairs, Binghamton University
Susan A. Burtis
Group Manager, M&T Bank
Rajesh Davé, MD
Executive VP, Chief Medical Officer, UHS
Dean, Clinical Campus, SUNY Upstate
Executive Director of Suite(K), Retirement Plan Navigator, S.E.E.D. Planning Group
Mark S. Gorgos
Managing Partner, Coughlin and Gerhart, LLP
Partner, Hinman, Howard & Kattell, LLP
President, Sentry Alarms
Jamye L. Lindsey
Partner, Levene, Gouldin & Thompson, LLP
Senior Research Analyst, Dawnbreaker
Crisis and Response
As COVID-19 reached the United States in January and February, we knew we had to be ready to respond to whatever conditions the disease created in our region. We prepared to shut the Foundation’s office, work remotely, partner with other funders, reinvent the grantmaking process and start fundraising to meet emerging needs. We believed that things would return to “normal” sometime in the summer, or fall at the latest. Little did we realize that as 2020 drew to a close, the pandemic would be entering an even bleaker phase.
Our offices closed on March 16. All staff began to work from home, and all Board, committee and grant review meetings moved to Zoom, a platform we had never used before. We spent that first month scrambling to get everything in place. From spring through late summer, we took part in countless online meetings involving our Board of Directors, our grants review committees, local, state and national funders, philanthropy associations, nonprofits and community leaders.
We conducted surveys of nonprofits in March and in late August, asking what they needed most and how we could help. We consulted with local foundations and United Ways. We attended virtual seminars, webinars and informal meetings of organizations around the state and the nation. What were others doing, and how were they doing it? It was all hands on deck and—no surprise to us—everyone stepped up in ways both mundane and remarkable.
The needs we discovered in our communities were alarming. People were going hungry. Nonprofits were closing and laying off employees. Parents couldn’t work: the schools were closed or had moved on line, and the parents had no access to child care. No one could find enough personal protective equipment (PPE) or sanitizing products.
Nonprofits that responded to our surveys told us they were starved for funds due to closures, cancelled performances, cancelled fundraisers and lost fees for service. Without this money, they could not serve their constituents. If the crisis lasted beyond three months, it would cripple them severely, they said. They were also concerned about employees who made minimum wage, had little or no paid time off and lacked health insurance.
As the pandemic continued well past the three-month mark, the toughest challenge for most nonprofits was the uncertainty. How long would this last? How bad would it get? What financial supports might be available for individuals and organizations? What would the federal and state governments do to help? The questions went on and on.
While the country wrestled with the twin health and financial emergencies in 2020, it also faced a reckoning on racism, prompted by the deaths of a number of Black men and women in confrontations with the police, including the death of George Floyd in May. Many philanthropic organizations, ours included, responded to the call for racial justice and equity, starting to examine our internal practices and external funding procedures.
In the 2020 Annual Report you will read how organizations and programs responded to the COVID-19 crisis. But you’ll also learn about longer-term initiatives we launched in 2020. For example, we opened our first Racial Justice and Equity Fund, and the community responded with 16 applications for projects and programs to address these important concerns. We also initiated a Restart the Arts campaign, supporting the quality of life in our communities by helping arts and culture organizations survive the pandemic and continue to thrive.
We could not have weathered this storm without the generosity of our donors, the guidance of our Board of Directors, the work of staff and volunteers and the commitment of the numerous organizations working daily to serve the region. As always, we take their dedication of time, talent and resources seriously, and we thank them for making it possible to fulfill our mission. We hope that you will see in the 2020 Annual Report the important and critical work your friends, colleagues and neighbors accomplished in their communities under very challenging circumstances.