Mazzoni Center secures $50,000 grant from PHL COVID-19 Fund

Images courtesy of Mazzoni Center Facebook

“I wanted to share some good news,” wrote the Mazzoni Center’s Director of Communications Larry Benjamin. Last week, the Mazzoni Center — an institution that offers LGBTQ-centered health and wellbeing services — secured a $50,000 grant from the PHL COVID-19 Fund, an initiative of the Philadelphia Foundation and United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey. Due to this vital funding, the Mazzoni Center will now be able to continue offering health services and provide COVID-19 tests to its patients. 

“LGTBQ [awareness and] competency is a really big deal,” explained Chelsea Switzer, the center’s corporate and foundation relations officer. The Mazzoni Center offers gender-affirming services and a staff trained in LGBTQ issues that general hospitals and clinics may lack. In a time when health services are at the frontline of need, said Switzer, it is that much more important that LGBTQ Philadelphians have a safe place to go. 

Many of Philadelphia’s nonprofits, including the Mazzoni Center, have had to face unprecedented conditions and incurred costs due to the pandemic. After closing its doors on March 16, Benjamin explained that all services offered by the Mazzoni Center that could go virtual did go virtual. Before nationwide closures took effect, the Mazzoni Center lacked any infrastructure to go virtual. Within two weeks, however, the center acquired the infrastructure to offer telemedicine services for outpatients as well as online support groups and drop-in outreach programs for the LGBTQ community. Some services are still open on location, said Benjamin, which include pre-screened patient appointments and a food bank where those who are food-insecure can pick up pre-packed grocery bags. Then, one patient tested positive for COVID-19 and the center took the necessary precautions to deep-clean the entire building. “These things are very expensive,” said Switzer, “Everyone was thinking, ‘What are we going to do?’” 

Benjamin and Switzer quickly drafted a grant proposal for the PHL COVID019 Fund. In a matter of three weeks, the $50,000 grant was awarded to the Mazzoni Center.“[PHLCOVID-19 Fund’s] speed of action to reaction was so phenomenal,” said Benjamin, “The grant process was simplified, and they started distributing funding in phases so [nonprofits weren’t] waiting longer than necessary.” And the grant was approved for operational costs. Oftentimes, noted Benjamin, grant money is only approved for specific projects and functions. By releasing the funds to operational costs, the center was able to have some autonomy and freedom in allocating money to areas most in need. This type of funding is especially paramount in allocating money in an emergency environment where daily operations, rather than specialized programming, are constantly under attack due to a lack of regular donor support. 

With this $50,000, the Mazzoni Center will be able to carry out its mission to serve the LGBTQ community’s healthcare needs. “We are thankful to all partners that have given us financial and other support during this time as we remain committed to remaining open to patients and clients.” said Chief Financial Officer Racquel Assaye, “The grant from the foundation will allow us to offset the additional expenses of adapting to telemedicine and extend our financial runway.” The Mazzoni Center will continue to offer regular telemedicine services as well as online support groups and therapy. It will be able to keep its doors open for individual appointments and run the food bank. Additionally, the center will also be able to protect its staff by outfitting them with N95 masks and other necessary personal protection equipment. With 224 additional confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of May 12, the Mazzoni Center has an even greater burden to test possible new cases. Thanks to the grant, testing is now available via a drive-thru/walk-up program called MazzoniGo.

“I’m really grateful for this fund,” said Switzer, “I think all the nonprofits in the city are. It’s a tremendous list of diverse organizations that are doing incredible work.” Yet, while both Switzer and Benjamin are grateful for the $50,000, this money will only carry the center so far. The Mazzoni Center will continue to apply for grants, but individual donations are also welcomed and encouraged. “If you can, help,” said Switzer, “Even if it’s just $10-$15. It really does make a difference.” 

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