Youth Concert Audience

Fourth and fifth graders from the Long Beach Unified School District concentrate on the Long Beach Symphony music at the 2018 Toyota Youth Concerts.

Long Beach has more than 400 nonprofit groups, almost every one trying to respond to the coronavirus crisis in its own way.

Many of the nonprofits are service providers to people in need — and that need doesn't go away because the government says everyone should stay home. Meals On Wheels, for example, needs to keep delivering food to shut-ins.

"We're operating pretty much as usual, delivering around 350 meals a day," Long Beach Meals On Wheels board president Bob Shannon said. "There's already been an uptick in applications (to receive meals) and we're expediting the approval process.

"We've had no problem getting food, and for the few volunteers who can't come in, we're getting more."

Other agencies are looking for ways to keep providing services while limiting personal contact. The Guidance Center, which offers mental health counseling to children and their families, is conducting telephone sessions instead of having people come in.

Michelle Byerly, executive director of The Nonprofit Partnership, said her employees are working remotely wherever possible, and TNP's workshops or classes have been moved to online sessions. Last Monday, she offered an online workshop called "Managing Your Staff Remotely."

"Online isn't possible for most services, though," Byerly said. "Everyone is canceling programs… We try to help where we can. Most are taking it day by day."

And many have suspended operations, at least for the short-term. AbilityFirst has closed its centers until at least March 30, Precious Lamb Preschool has shut its campus for the week, 

WomenShelter, the agency helping victims of domestic violence, is continuing most of its programs and the supported housing for those escaping dangerous homes remains open. Executive Director Mary Ellen Mitchell said counseling sessions are being limited to groups of less than 10, paper plates and utensils are being used and "groups make the circle a bit wider."

Losing Funding

WomenShelter also had its annual fund-raising dinner scheduled for April 2 in the Pacific Ballroom at the Entertainment and Convention Center. It was canceled, with some hope of rescheduling later this year.

"So far, everyone we've talked to have said keep the money for a rescheduled event," Mitchell said. "The problem is, there's competition to reschedule… everyone is battling for dates."

Steve Goodling, president and CEO of the Long Beach Convention & Visitors Bureau, said that one-night fundraisers at the Convention Center will likely get new dates. Problems arise with multi-day productions and conventions. For example, the traveling show "Shen Yun" has been cancelled and won't return to Long Beach this year.

Mitchell said WomenShelter hadn't spent a lot yet on the fundraiser. She added the group is adopting the approach with sponsors and ticket purchasers to ask it be put toward a rescheduled event or to convert the money to a direct donation. But refunds are being made when people want them.

Part of WomenShelter's funding comes from government contracts for service. Other nonprofits aren't so lucky.

"Lots of agencies are trying to cut their losses," Byerly said. The Nonprofit Partnership is helping groups deal with cancellations where possible. "We're hoping the venues can give them some help (by returning deposits). And if people bought tickets, they already were supportive, so we encourage them to donate the price."

Other organizations, from Christian Outreach Appeal to the Salvation Army, look to stores and other sources of revenue to support services. The coronavirus restrictions have hit them hard.

Goodwill SOLAC (Serving the people of Southern Los Angeles County) has 18 retail stores in the South Bay. The stores are the primary source of funding for the nonprofit, and remain open. Hours have been reduced to 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. though, and work throughout the agency has been reduced to a single shift. CEO Janet McCarthy said her staff is helping employees with unemployment and assistance claims.

Arts Organizations

One of the first "directions" from government officials dealing with the coronavirus was to eliminate gatherings of 250 people or more (which later dropped to 50, then to 10). In addition to cancelling fundraisers, that eliminated all scheduled performance arts events through the end of April.

For example, the Long Beach Symphony had to postpone the POPS! concert scheduled this Saturday, March 21. A series of events April 21, 25 and 26 around the Violins of Hope initiative also were cancelled.

The POPS! concert already has been rescheduled for July 18, but a search still is underway to reschedule the Violins of Hope events.

"At this time, all other concerts in May are proceeding as scheduled," Symphony CEO Kelly Lucera said in a release. "If there are any changes, we’ll promptly notify all ticketholders by email but we recommend checking our website at LongBeachSymphony.org/safetyupdate."

Musical Theatre West had to cancel its production of "Mame," but executive producer Paul Garman said it likely will be rescheduled in August. That means trying to keep the cast already chosen together and available. But that's better than the situation at the Long Beach Playhouse, where closing the doors means loss of dates on both stages. And International City Theatre is looking for new dates for its next planned production, "Daisy."

All Long Beach nonprofits, like the rest of the community, are hard-pressed to make any plans as the coronavirus status — and government's response to it — change almost hourly. The response Goodwill's McCarthy gave seems to resonate with most nonprofit leaders.

“The events surrounding COVID-19 are changing daily," McCarthy said. "As developments occur, Goodwill SOLAC’s Leadership Team will continue to communicate to the public as frequently as possible.”

Harry has been executive editor of Gazette Newspapers for more than 26 years. He has been in the newspaper business for more than 35 years, with experience on both weekly and metropolitan daily papers in Colorado and California.

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