A church was able to distribute food boxes, face masks and free COVID-19 testing to undocumented neighbors hardest hit by the pandemic.

A free medical clinic was able to safely resume in-patient appointments, after installing plexiglass shields and other safety equipment.

An interfaith nonprofit was able to help 88 families with emergency utility and rent assistance.

These urgent needs – and many more — were met thanks to an emergency grant from the Henry Luce Foundation, in partnership with Perkins School of Theology.

Last spring, the Foundation approved the $150,000 grant to Perkins to distribute to help churches and nonprofits in their responses to the pandemic. Hugo Magallanes served as principal investigator, with support from Isabel Docampo, John Martin and Andy Keck. Now, the agencies and ministries are reporting the grant’s impact.

Perkins distributed the funds in two ways: through grants of $15,000 each to the North Texas, Rio Texas, Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Missouri and Oklahoma Indian Missionary Annual Conferences of the United Methodist Church; and with grants of $2,000 to $10,000 for proposals submitted by North Texas area organizations that have partnered in the past with The Center for the Study of Latino/a Christianity and Religions and with Perkins School of Theology.

Perkins was selected in part due to its network of contacts with annual conferences, local churches and organizations serving the Latinx, vulnerable, at-risk and other communities most affected by the pandemic.

“Because Perkins is located in an urban area, we have an ongoing relationship with these agencies that serve the people who were hardest hit, medically and economically, by the pandemic,” said Magallanes, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs. “Perkins was an ideal partner to help distribute the funds quickly.”

Break Bread, Break Borders (BBBB) was one of 14 non-profits awarded grant money, receiving $2,500. The social enterprise provides culinary training to refugee women from war-torn countries. Pre-pandemic, BBBB served more than 10,000 people by catering events for companies and organizations; now, it’s struggling to find ways to keep its momentum. With the grant money, the organization experimented with initiatives to sell packaged goods, and provided rent assistance to women in the program. “The Luce Grant kept the communities we serve from evictions, losing power and food insecurity,” BBBB’s report said.  (Watch this video to learn more about BBBB.)

Similarly, The Agape Clinic used its $4,000 grant for facilities upgrades that allowed the free medical clinic to continue serving patients in East Dallas.  The clinic installed a plexiglass barrier (to help reduce the spread of germs) and made repairs to its gate (to better control foot traffic). The measures allowed staff members to resume in-person appointments and to reopen some specialty clinics, including women’s health, dermatology, ophthalmology and student-led evening clinics. “Thanks to these safety measures, Agape has had no on-site cases of COVID transmission,” the agency reported.

Other non-profits receiving grants included the Workers Defense Project Texas Undocumented Worker Fund ($4,000); Mission Waco in Waco, Texas ($4,000); Peaceful Oasis Emergency Shelter of the Texas Muslim Women’s Foundation, serving survivors of domestic violence ($4,000); Bonton Farms ($4,000); Austin Street Shelter ($4,000); the Human Rights Initiative ($4,000); Wesley Rankin Center ($4,000); Faith in Texas -La RED–COVID 19 Recovery Platform ($4,000); Interfaith Family Services ($4,000); Faith Formula Human Services ($2,500); Gateway of Grace ($2,500); and Texas Impact: People of Faith Working for Justice ($2,500).

The grants were not competitive; organizations were invited to submit proposals and then received the money.

“We have developed a level of trust with the organizations that were supported through the grant,” said Docampo who is Director of the Center for the Study of Latino/a Christianity and Religions. “They rose to the occasion, finding creative ways to support people, whether through programs that were already in place or by helping meet local needs at food banks or other distribution networks. As a result, the grant helped strengthen Perkins’ relationships with the conferences and organizations, and we in turn helped the Luce Foundation expand the impact of the grant money.”

This grant was approved through a recommendation from the Foundation’s Theology Program and designated “to uplift the voices and experiences of vulnerable communities, to directly support community partners and community members in need, and to contribute to new and ongoing efforts to deliver an equitable and just emergency response for all.”  Additional funds rolled over from a previous grant to Perkins from The Luce Foundation also supported the effort.

In addition to the non-profits listed above, a total of $105,000 was distributed to Annual Conferences.  The Oklahoma Indian Missionary Annual Conference received $15,000 for food distribution and gift cards for area grocery stores; school aid and clothing assistance for low-income Native American children; and supplies to assist homeless Native Americans. The conference serves 81 churches and 45 tribal nations in Texas, Kansas and Oklahoma.

“The COVID-19 pandemic hit Indian country very hard,” said the Rev. David Wilson in a video report on the grant. “Native American communities have perhaps the highest incidence of COVID. According to the CDC, Native Americans with the virus are six times as likely to be hospitalized, due to lack of access to healthcare, underlying health conditions and other factors.”

Other grants to annual conferences supported the following efforts:

The Texas Annual Conference to support its COVID-19 Help plan assisting families in United Methodist churches, including many undocumented immigrants who were not receiving help from other sources. Pastors provided gift cards of $200 – $500 to help families in need purchase groceries and other needed items.

The Rio Texas Annual Conference to support its Iniciativa de Impacto Communitario, which provides a laundry ministry (for undocumented families without home laundry facilities); a computer lab for students without internet connections; utility support, a bicycle repair workshop and food distribution.

The Louisiana Annual Conference to support Luke’s House in New Orleans ($7,500) and the Center of Hope for Tangipahoa in Hammond, La. ($7,500).  Luke’s House provides free medical care, health education, and patient navigation to those in need; the grant allowed the clinic to navigate patients to clinics and testing sites, provided food to hungry community members, and provided free medical visits. At Center of Hope for Tangipahoa, grant money provided groceries for the food pantry; hand sanitizer, masks and gloves for volunteers; and housing and medical assistance.

The Arkansas Annual Conference to support its 200,000 More Reasons program, which disbursed funding to 20 United Methodist feeding ministries to purchase food and PPE supplies for distribution. Those receiving the money included ministries that serve rural or predominantly Hispanic or African American communities.

The Missouri Annual Conference to assist Della Lamb Community Services, which provides early education, refugee services, social services, and youth services to low-income and immigrant families in Kansas City. The grant supported Della Lamb’s COVID-19 response including a mobile food pantry, distance-learning ESL classes, mobile COVID-19 test clinic, and weekly learning lessons for early education program participants.

The North Texas Annual Conference to assist Christ’s Foundry United Methodist Mission ($7,500) and Project Unity ($7,500). Christ’s Foundry serves a predominantly immigrant population in North Dallas and assisted with COVID-19 testing, face mask and hygiene supply distribution, groceries for 150 families, and free Spanish-language counseling and care to families struggling due to COVID-19.   Project Unity’s Together We Test program provided free COVID-19 testing to persons in underserved communities of color.