COVID-19 Relief Grants Awarded

Food boxes for delivery fill tables at Community Cafe

COVID-19 Agency Relief Fund's First Distributions

Update, June 19, 2020: Rice County Area United Way has distributed an additional $4,050 in relief funds for a total of $11,700.


In its first round of COVID-19 relief microgrants, Rice County Area United Way has awarded more than $7,500 to seven area nonprofits assisting people impacted by the COVID-19 health emergency.

Grants were awarded to:

  • Community Action Center of Northfield – for its food shelf, emergency housing and other safety net services
  • Community Café – providing a weekly meal, now delivering to several locations in Faribault
  • Faribault Youth Investment / Growing Up Healthy – delivering food boxes to Faribault families in need
  • HOPE Center – providing safehousing for Rice County area women experiencing domestic violence or sexual assault
  • Neighbors United – offering food, medical co-pay assistance and rent assistance for the immigrant community in Northfield
  • Ruth’s House – providing emergency and transitional housing for Rice County area women and children facing homelessness
  • Society of St. Vincent de Paul – for its food shelf and other assistance in Faribault

Scott Wopata, executive director of the Community Action Center (CAC), said the funds would go toward purchasing food and hygiene supplies for CAC's food shelf and may also be used to support hotel vouchers for people experiencing homelessness, a need he said was being expressed almost daily at CAC.

Dave Campbell, board member for the volunteer-run Community Café, said, “We really appreciate these funds. Our number of meals served has soared as have our food costs and drive by supplies. Tuesday we provided 248 meals and were able to give many families a two-pound ham to take home.”

“We serve domestic violence and sexual assault clients,” said Erica Staab, executive director of HOPE Center.  “Right now we are seeing the biggest increase in our need for safehousing.  We have been seeing an uptick in people wanting/needing to leave. And we anticipate that the longer this goes on the larger that need will be.” Staab said the grant would help HOPE Center continue to be able to provide shelter or pay for transportation to other shelters.

Rice County Area United Way’s executive director, Penny Hillemann, said, “These experienced local agencies are working diligently and creatively, in the face of much greater demand and social distancing challenges, to deliver their services in ways that keep their clients, staff and volunteers as safe as possible. We are grateful for these partners who are so capable at assisting people in times of crisis, and we are pleased to be able to support their work with these grants.” 

The grants were made possible by donations to Rice County Area United Way’s COVID-19 agency relief fund from local individuals, from Gillette Pepsi Companies, and from Granite Equity Partners Fund, a Partner Fund of the Initiative Foundation.

Additional grants will be awarded on a rolling basis as funds become available. 100% of funds donated for agency relief will be distributed to Rice County Area United Way partner agencies responding to the COVID-19 emergency. To donate, visit or send a check with COVID-19 Fund in the memo line to Rice County Area United Way at PO Box 56, Northfield, MN 55057.