Focus of social justice group’s grants expands amid pandemic

  • Arky Markham, center, blows out candles on her cakes with the help of Marty Nathan and Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz during her 100th birthday celebration in June 2015 at Smith College. The party was a benefit for the Markham-Nathan Fund for Social Justice. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 6/30/2020 7:17:48 PM

NORTHAMPTON — Both individuals and organizations have been forced to adapt to a world indelibly altered by the coronavirus. And for The Markham-Nathan Fund for Social Justice, that has meant supporting activism in ways it previously has not done before.

The group’s grants have previously only gone to organizing work, not direct relief. However, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and an anonymous $25,000 gift, the organization has set up the COVID-19 Relief and Organizing Grant Program.

“This is on top of our regular granting to small groups,” said Marty Nathan, the fund’s co-founder.

The fund was founded in 2009 in honor of Michael Nathan and George Markham by their widows, Nathan and Arky Markham. It funds western Massachusetts groups fighting for social change around issues including economic inequality, racism, sexism and xenophobia.

Since its founding, the group has granted $254,996, not counting what it has given out in COVID-19 grants.

Unlike the organization’s normal grants, the COVID-19 grants can be used for direct aid to those suffering from the effects of the pandemic. They can also be used for technological adaptations to the pandemic and for supporting opposition to developments such as cuts to the social safety net.

Individual grants can be as much as $2,000, and unlike the organization’s normal grants, there’s no limit on the size of the organizations that can receive them, although they must be based in western Massachusetts.

“They’ve been very grateful,” said Nathan, of the grant recipients to date. “They’re facing hard times.”

So far, $14,000 has been given out across seven organizations.

Some of the recipients have included the Indian Orchard Citizens Council, for mutual aid efforts for residents of Springfield, West Springfield and Holyoke; Eggtooth Productions of Greenfield, for mini-grants to out-of-work artists; and Arise for Social Justice of Springfield, to fight against cuts in SNAP benefits and to find housing for low-wage, homeless and formerly incarcerated people.

Tanisha Arena, executive director of Arise, said their grant has also allowed them to deliver food to those in need.

“Those grant dollars are definitely making a difference,” she said.

The application deadline for grants is Dec. 1, and the fund is asking that the money be used by Dec. 31.

Nathan said that she hopes people will donate to allow the grants to continue after the $25,000 gift has been exhausted. She also said that the fund will be spending the coming week calling around to find organizations interested in the COVID-19 grants.

“We are open to funding more people,” she said.

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