Richard King Mellon awards nearly $8.5 million for COVID-19 relief

Richard King Mellon awards nearly $8.5 million for COVID-19 relief

The Pittsburgh-based Richard King Mellon Foundation has announced grants totaling nearly $8.5 million in support of COVID-19 relief efforts in southwestern Pennsylvania.

The latest round of relief grants awarded by the foundation will support food banks in Allegheny and Westmoreland counties, restaurant workers feeding those in need, and arts organizations in the city's Cultural District. Grants include $1.5 million to the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership, which will use the funds to support seventeen downtown restaurants providing twelve hundred meals a week to food insecure individuals; $1 million to the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank; $500,000 to the Westmoreland County Food Bank, which will use some of the funds to launch an outreach campaign; $1 million to the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust; and $250,000 to New Sun Rising, which will re-grant the funds to small- and midsize arts groups in the region.

The foundation also awarded $875,000 to the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, which will use the funds to rehire furloughed staff and make repairs at the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Fallingwater in Fayette County. Arts and culture groups receiving grants ranging from $150,000 to $250,000 include the Andy Warhol MuseumCarnegie InstitutePittsburgh Ballet TheatrePittsburgh Glass CenterPittsburgh OperaPittsburgh Public Theater, and Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. In addition, a $250,000 grant was awarded to UPMC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh to acquire the cold-storage systems required to distribute and administer the COVID-19 vaccine and a software system to track the deployment of the vaccine and its outcomes. 

"[I]t is fitting," said foundation director Sam Reiman in a statement, "that our final grant of 2020 was for vaccine distribution. Much of our funding has been focused on fueling the 2021 recovery — and ubiquitous distribution of the vaccine is the singular key to that recovery."

The grants bring the foundation's grantmaking in support of pandemic relief efforts since April to more than $33 million — an amount equivalent to more than a quarter of the foundation's annual giving. The number of grants the foundation has awarded and the number of inquiries it has received from potential grantees this year jumped 93 percent and 130 percent over 2019 levels, Reiman told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

"The volume of work is sort of off the chart," said Reiman. "It's turning out to be a very long winter....We can't close the gap or match what the federal government or public sector is able to provide [but w]e can provide a stopgap."

(Photo credit: Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank)