It was obvious from the start.
When Barbara van Pelt called to schedule a site visit on behalf of the Carl B. & Florence E. King Foundation, her focus was on the coronavirus pandemic. Shortly we would all feel the global impact of COVID-19, but Barbara was steps ahead in her caution.
To begin at the beginning, the Carl B. and Florence E. King Foundation is a Dallas-based granting agency founded in 1966. Florence and Carl moved to Oklahoma in 1909 during the oil boom. The Dallas office of the Carl B. King Drilling Company opened in 1935.
As their company and resources grew, the Kings supported the communities that shaped their lives. Following Carl’s death in 1967, Florence assumed the duties of president of the foundation and served until her death in 1983.
Throughout their lives, the Kings fostered their small-town, self-starting attitude, and were always thoughtful and careful in their promises. The King Foundation was shaped by a commitment to the independence, health, and education of the community and its future generations.
The foundation literature begins with the vision: “The Board of Directors of the Carl B. & Florence E. King Foundation is committed to the highest standards of philanthropy and to honoring the founders’ original intent, while adapting to today’s needs.”
“While adapting to today’s needs” was Barbara van Pelt’s direction when she met via Zoom with members of the GRACE staff in early April. It was only a few weeks after COVID-19 came on the scene, and many questions and fears were circulating.
Barbara is owner of van Pelt and Associates, consultants for nonprofit organizations and a frequent adviser to the King Foundation and its president Michelle Monse. Under Michelle’s leadership, the foundation’s first grant in 2005 helped GRACE build the Community Clinic and Food Pantry.
As time passed, the King Foundation helped fund the launch of the GRACE Friends & Family Program for seniors. Serving an aging population became one of the top priorities for the foundation.
With the foundation’s support, Friends & Family grew to help seniors protect and improve their financial independence, reduce isolation, strengthen food and medication security, provide case management and transportation, and improve home conditions, maintenance, and safety.
While the Friends & Family Program was the primary topic of the Zoom meeting with Barbara, it was obvious from the start that all our minds were on COVID-19 and the impact it was having on the people GRACE serves, and would continue to serve in larger numbers in the days and weeks ahead.
GRACE Chief Program Officer Stacy Pacholick and Friends & Family Coordinator Christine Szymaszek reported on the senior program with numbers served, impact data, outcomes, and results. Invariably, though, the conversation turned often to the planning taking place at the time to serve clients while practicing proper distancing, masking, and other exposure preventions.
Talks turned to business closures and the number of people in the service and hospitality industries in north Tarrant County who would soon be furloughed or laid off. It would be prophetic.
Within days large hotels began staff reductions, eventually to close completely. The mall closed; the airport ceased operations. GRACE client load tripled, then doubled again over the same period last year.
The role private philanthropy plays in meeting community needs is a guiding principle and a strong driving force with the board of directors at the King Foundation.
“Our Directors applaud your efforts,” said Michelle Monse in her grant award letter. By way of explanation, the King Foundation had made “changes to our Community Grants programs due to the economic distress resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The explanation continued: “As of April 2020, the Foundation plans to maintain giving at the same level, but with some added flexibility.”
The award was given for “general operating support”, which means it could continue to fund the Friends & Family Program, but GRACE was afforded the option to redirect funds should greater needs arise.
GRACE has shown time after time in its 35-year history the ability to stop, reassess a situation, and then move forward on a better course of action. As an organization that prides itself in its flexibility, GRACE is second-to-none in its appreciation of the Carl B. and Florence E. King Foundation for exhibiting the same understanding and practicality.
GRACE will continue to embrace a massive increase of clients as much as possible. With the hospitality industry likely to be one of the last to recover, this volume of clients may continue well into the future.
Yet, it is inspiring to know there are donors—individuals, businesses, organizations, and foundations like the King Foundation—who place great importance on supporting agencies who are striving to bring our communities back to whole.
Thank you Michelle, Barbara, and everyone at the King Foundation for all you do.