Local nonprofits react to pandemic job losses: ‘This has been a rollercoaster’

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INDIANAPOLIS––It’s no secret, nonprofits have struggled to keep up during the pandemic.  

A new study puts a spotlight on the number of jobs these organizations have lost in just the past few months. According to Johns Hopkins University, it could take more than a year to regain their pre-pandemic employment levels and local groups also have to handle this.

“From the beginning, this has been a rollercoaster for our community,” said Jennifer Vigran, the CEO of Second Helpings.

“Education is always top-tier issue,” added Justin Ohlemiller, the Executive Director or Stand for Children Indiana.

The nonprofit organizations that we rely on to help our communities in education, art and food distribution are facing hardships.

“Like everyone else, can’t wait until we can move on,” said Vigran.

Across the U.S. 50,000 nonprofit positions were lost in December. A Johns Hopkins University study found groups involved in arts and entertainment have lost more than 130,000 jobs. Here locally, the Indianapolis Arts Center felt the impact.

“With the shutdown there were a lot of layoffs unfortunately, like just about every business, especially nonprofits. The PPP (Paycheck Protection Program) helped bring some of those people back,” said Mark Williams, the President and CEO of the Indianapolis Arts Center.

The pandemic has once again forced the center to cancel its Broad Ripple Art Fair. It would have been the 50th anniversary. It was a difficult decision as the event brings in thousands of dollars.

Williams said to adjust to the pandemic, they plan to host multiple events this summer along with partnering with others in the community to support the art community.

“This is an opportunity to build towards the future,” said Williams, “We are investing in technology right now; this has taught us that there’s a want for a digital learning management system.”

The Indianapolis Arts Center is adapting by adding online courses.

The report also found educational nonprofits lost the most number of jobs––roughly 300,000.

Locally, Stand for Children Indiana has seen an uptick in donors, and for that, they’re thankful.

“We’ve been very fortunate and haven’t had to lay off any of our staff,” said Ohlemiller, “We’re really trying to improve education for young people. I think we’re fortunate to be in a marketplace where funders, foundations have really stepped up.”

As for food distribution nonprofits like, Second Helpings last year, 1.8 million prepared meals were given out in Central Indiana. And while the number of meals doubled, Vigran said that volunteer were half of what they were the year before. That’s forced Second Helpings to step up to the demand.

“We’ve brought in temp-labor to help deal with that, we have also engaged local restaurants and caterers to help in that effort,” added Vigran.

An effort felt by all nonprofits as they find ways to continue helping you.

“The nonprofit community has to step up and understand how their work has adapted,” said Ohlemiller.

For a look at the study by Johns Hopkins University, click here.

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