READING, Pa. - Help will soon be on the way to dozens of nonprofit agencies that are providing immediate assistance to those in Berks County who are impacted by coronavirus crisis.

The United Way of Berks County announced Wednesday that it has launched the Berks COVID-19 Response Fund, with an organizational commitment of $100,000.

Officials said the money raised by the fund will be distributed to local health and human service nonprofits with experience and expertise in providing food, essential supplies and other crucial assistance to Berks County residents in need.

"This is a crisis of immediate need," said Joanne Judge, the United Way's board chair. "We want to make sure we can get resources to our community's most vulnerable neighbors as quickly as possible. We know there will be a long-term impact on individuals and families missing paychecks; issues as children are out of school or missing childcare; and needs impacting our older adults."

The funds will be distributed to as many as 40 eligible organizations through an application process. The funding decisions will be made by local volunteers and professionals with experience evaluating critical needs, similar to the United Way's Rapid Response Grant process.

So far this year, the United Way of Berks County has distributed eight Rapid Response grants, totaling more than $90,000. Most of the grants, officials said, have been for needs related to the pandemic.

"Community needs are growing and will continue to surge," said Tammy White, the United Way's president. "By establishing this fund, our focus is to support organizations on the front lines to ensure they have resources to help those most-in-need."

Individuals, corporations, and foundations can contribute to the fund either by texting UWBCGIVE to 85511 or by going to the United Way of Berks County's website, where you'll also find a list of frequently asked questions about the Berks COVID-19 Response Fund.

All donations received, minus any credit card fees, will go directly to the fund.

At United Way, we have witnessed time and time again this community's spirit of caring and compassion," White said. "We believe the response to this crisis will be another shining moment for Berks County."

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