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News >  Spokane

Avista Foundation awards grants, with many going toward coronavirus aid

UPDATED: Wed., March 25, 2020

Avista's headquarters are seen on Wednesday, July 19, 2017, in Spokane, Wash. 
Tyler Tjomsland/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Avista's headquarters are seen on Wednesday, July 19, 2017, in Spokane, Wash. Tyler Tjomsland/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

Avista Foundation announced Tuesday it has awarded $568,500 for its first grant cycle of 2020, with $184,500 of the total going to help various nonprofit organizations as they deal with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The foundation put $40,000 toward the restaurant and hospitality community, including Big Table in Spokane and CDAIDE in Coeur d’Alene, which provide resources, case management, mentorship and care for people who are struggling.

The Innovia Foundation’s relief fund was another grant recipient, as were various organizations providing food for seniors, families and children.

Kevin Finch, Big Table executive director, said the organization feels lucky that it has a long relationship with Avista Foundation. He said Big Table received $10,000.

“As soon as we saw the need, that train barreling down the tracks – this unprecedented need – I reached out just to say, ‘Is there any way we can partner in this process?’ ”

The best way to helpthose in the restaurant industry now is by supporting organizations like Big Table, Finch said.

“It’s just a whole industry went off the cliff all at once. I’ve never seen anything like it,” Finch said.

In the case of Big Table, the Avista Foundation awarded it the money even though it had not been one of the applicants for this grant cycle, said Kristine Meyer, foundation executive director.

“I think our restaurant and hospitality workers have been hit disproportionately in these early days of the virus in our region,” Meyer said. “These are folks who might be living on the margin as it is, and to lose their livelihood overnight in the name of safety – which we must do – is hitting them hard.”

With some of the grants, the organization had submitted the application long before coronavirus was an issue in the region. It so happened that some of these organizations were “serving on the front lines of response to coronavirus,” Meyer said.

Because of this, Avista Foundation decided to allow flexibility in how the money is used.

“This allows them to respond nimbly to the requests as they come in, so it allows these organizations to be really responsive,” Meyer said. “We’re hopeful that these dollars that are invested in these partner organizations will help stem the tide.”

The Avista Foundation is a separate, nonprofit organization established by Avista Corp. The foundation does not receive funding from Avista Utilities or AEL&P customers through rates.

The foundation focuses its giving in the areas of vulnerable and limited-income populations, education, as well as economic and cultural vitality.

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