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$400,000 in Response Fund grants awarded in southern Illinois

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MASSAC COUNTY (WSIL) -- A third round of grants through the Illinois COVID-19 Response Fund was delivered to eight different counties in southern Illinois this week.

More than 60 different organizations were granted a share of $400,000, distributed through the Southern Illinois Community Foundation (SICF) and the United Way of Southern Illinois.

"This check from the Southern Illinois Community Foundation is a real blessing," said Terry Foster, a volunteer with At the River Ministries. The Ministries began its services in 2013 by providing a free community dinner each month for anyone wishing to attend. "Then throughout the month we provide resources for people who are struggling."

Foster says covering the cost of those services is entirely donation based, something COVID-19 has disrupted.

"It has affected us financially, because our contributions are not what they have been," Foster explains, adding, "But some of our expenses are less too because we haven't been able to do the monthly meal."

River Ministries joined a dozen other non-profit organizations in Metropolis Thursday morning for a share of $39,000 in grant funding to help with food and emergency shelter.

"We're able to this time grant to people who can help with utility, rent, mortgage assistance other types of emergency household expenses," said Byram Fager, Southern Illinois Community Foundation CEO.

Low Income Home Energy Assistance program manager Stephanie Eskridge with the Shawnee Development Council says funding from Thursday's grant will allow for more utility assistance.

"The LIHEAP program we can only pay so much, and if there's the difference," said Eskridge. "We can use some of this money to pay the difference and relieve the burden for them."

Donations to the COVID-19 Response Fund have reached more than $30 million since its inception, with $18 million already granted to organizations to help those in need.

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