Joy Benenson is quick to point out that the negative effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have not been distributed equally.
“I wake up every day with struggles and issues like everyone else. I also know that my family is fortunate, and we will likely get through this crisis,” says Joy. “If we can do something to support people and families that have been hit especially hard, we will.”
Joy and her family have always directed their giving toward nonprofits working to combat disparities in education and food- and housing-access. Now, as the pandemic widens those gaps, the Benenson family feels a renewed sense of urgency to help people that have been most impacted by the virus.
“It is absolutely heartbreaking to see families struggling to survive, and I want to do all I can to help,” says Joy.
Joy has spent the past two months doubling down on her support for impacted populations, both with her time and her money. As the virus began to spread in Colorado, she rushed funds to Mile High 360, a Denver-based youth development program designed to provide students from high-poverty communities with after-school, weekend and summer access to essential out-of-school resources in academics, health and wellness and life skills.
Joy sits on Mile High 360’s board and works closely with the organization’s career development and internship programs.
“The kids I work with are incredibly capable and incredibly smart, all they need is a chance,” she says. “By removing certain systemic barriers to opportunity, Mile High 360 helps these students succeed.”
Mile High 360 serves students from 6th grade through college, offering each child an average of 450 hours of wraparound services each year. In middle and high school, services range from tutoring to physical education to mental health care; in college, students receive support applying for scholarships and financial aid, signing up for classes and securing employment.
Now, with the pandemic affecting all aspects of people’s lives, Mile High 360 has impressively expanded its reach to serve the families of each of its students.
“They’ve gone from helping around 100 children to helping around 500 family members,” explains Joy. “They’re still providing all their normal services, but now they’re also providing food and financial support for families struggling to cover utilities, rent and other various bills. They’re just doing so much more during this time and I’m proud to support them in any way that I can.”
Joy’s passion for supporting local nonprofits took off in 2013 when she joined the board of Rose Women’s Organization (RWO), a giving circle at the Foundation that awards grants to improve the health, education and welfare of women, children and families in the Greater Denver region. The experience of researching nonprofits, reviewing grant proposals and giving collaboratively encouraged her to explore other giving opportunities.
“My time on the RWO board opened my eyes to all the amazing nonprofits that do critical work in our community,” Joy recalls. “I was also able to see the tools a community foundation has at its disposal to support those nonprofits, including the ability to support individual donors through donor-advised funds (DAFs).”
Earlier this year, Joy and her husband Rich opened a DAF with Rose Community Foundation, which she says has taken their ability to support local nonprofits to a new level.
“After tapping into the Foundation’s resources, I feel I’m better in touch with the needs of nonprofits in the community,” she says. “The support and expertise offered by the philanthropic services team is amazing and helps us leverage our gifts to make a much bigger impact than we could on our own.”
In this time when we cannot physically reach out to others in our community, we CAN come together through our giving. Rose Community Foundation has created a resources page with giving opportunities and will keep it updated as we learn more. Thank you for working collectively with us to support the community we all love.