Four years later, partnerships forged in the pandemic are stronger than ever

By Cali Brooks
March 11, 2024

Cali Brooks president and CEO of Adirondack Foundation discuss COVID-19 pandemic four years later.

Four years ago, time stood still. The COVID-19 pandemic rippled across the globe, through our cities and into our rural Adirondack communities. Work, school, social and community functions — everything stopped as we tried to understand the size and scope of what was happening.

Today, we remember the lives that were lost, the businesses that shuttered and the innumerable smaller ways the pandemic disrupted and changed our lives. We also honor those who helped us get by, from healthcare and emergency personnel to frontline service workers and volunteers. It’s nearly impossible to measure the impact these individuals had both during lockdown and as the world slowly returned to some semblance of normalcy.

At Adirondack Foundation, we were inspired by the generosity of our donors, community partners and volunteers who came together to do their part. Through our Special & Urgent Needs Fund and established partnerships with Cloudsplitter Foundation, the Charles R. Wood Foundation, United Way of the Adirondacks, the New York State Health Foundation and many individual donors, we were able to funnel over $2 million to organizations to ensure that essential services could continue to be provided. Our partners have continued to work with us on some of the deeper issues the pandemic exposed.

One example is the Adirondack Food Systems Network (AFSN). Born from the need to get healthy food to people living in our rural communities amid the increased isolation, AFSN emerged in 2020 to help local producers, organizations and government agencies work more strategically in unison toward a resilient, inclusive regional food system. Adirondack Foundation remains a member of the steering committee of 13 other regional organizations, including fiscal sponsor AdkAction, Comfort Food Community of Washington County and Pitney Meadows Community Farm, in Saratoga Springs, to shore up vulnerable components of our food system and help scale up what’s working well.

We’ve also partnered with Cloudsplitter Foundation, Weatherup Family Foundation and Empire State Development to create the $2 million dollar Small Business Opportunity Fund at Adirondack Economic Development Corporation, which increases equitable access to financing — a great resource for small business owners looking to grow following the impacts of the pandemic. One of its first loans went to Amanda and Ryan Ragland to purchase and preserve the Schroon Lake Towne Store, a Main Street landmark.

As one of more than 800 community foundations across the U.S., our priority is always the well-being of the people of the Adirondack region. We serve as responsible stewards of the charitable assets entrusted to us, so we can respond to the needs of our neighbors, both now and for generations to come. From Hurricane Irene and COVID-19 to more recent flooding in Long Lake and Indian Lake, we’ve learned over the years that being prepared for future events is just as — if not more — important than responding in the moment. We’ll always be ready to answer the call when our communities need us, and we know that our partners and generous supporters will, too. 

We may never fully realize the ways the pandemic reshaped the Adirondack region, but we do have proof that time and time again, we have each other’s backs. It’s what being part of a community is all about.

Cali Brooks is president and CEO of Adirondack Foundation.