A one-day event grew into a now nearly 30-year-old program housed at Trinity Heights United Methodist Church — a program that is trying to survive and rebuild after COVID-19 forced the stoppage of all in-person fundraising events.


About 27 years ago Trinity Heights Respite Care became an incorporated nonprofit — respite care is time for parents to rest, recharge, and reconnect with friends and other family members. The organization provides respite care in the family home and at a monthly Parents Day Out, which offers children opportunities for socializing.


COVID-19 has put a stop to the Parent’s Day Out, but not the in home care to families in Harvey and Marion Counties.


COVID-19 has also made fundraising to support the nonprofit much more difficult.


"We lost two of our biggest fundraisers. As they continue mandates and things, that will make it harder to make it up through the end of the year," said Ashley Mabrey, executive director of Trinity Heights Respite Care.


Trinity Heights Respite Care serves families who have children with special needs, from newborns to 16 year olds. The organization has been offering more hours of care to the families it serves during the pandemic.


"There has not been an increase in need, but there really was. With the small amount of families that we did have, we were giving more than 40 hours of service to families to the clients we did have. In turn, we have to pay our staff for that and that really adds up," Mabrey said.


The cost of care is subsidized. Clients pay on a sliding scale according to income.


Client fees cover about 8 to 10% of the total cost of care, so Respite Care depends on grants and donations to make up the remaining operating budget.


The organization turned to the Paycheck Protection Program funded by the federal government. Those funds have been exhausted. The organization has not been able to host traditional, in-person fundraisers as COVID-19 has spread — meaning the need for new funding sources.


This fall they have turned to a new grant and funding source — Community Thrives, which creates fundraising websites for initiatives in addition to awarding grants nationwide in an attempt to raise funds.


"It has been hard to find grants because other organizations are in this situation too," Mabrey said. "Someone sent me a link for this, and I went ahead and set this up."


The conservancy fund-raising site can be found at https://acommunitythrives.mightycause.com/Trinity-Heights-Respite-Care.


A Community Thrives received 944 total submissions nationwide. Trinity Heights Respite Care is one of two Newton organizations participating in the program — Agape Resource Center is the other.


There are nine grants approved in the state of Kansas — all in communities served by sister papers to the Newton Kansan. Communities served include Newton, El Dorado, McPherson and Topeka.


The nationwide crowdfunding and grant program is entering its fourth year of supporting organizations that address social issues including education, housing, arts and culture, wellness and the environment.


A Community Thrives will award over 100 grants nationally that will be targeted specifically toward communities served by Gannett news organizations. In Kansas, that includes nine daily newspapers and eight weekly papers.


These local grants, which start at $2,500, can be used for general operating expenses. They are chosen by leaders at Gannett news organizations.