In the aftermath of 2012’s Hurricane Sandy and the flooding in the Mid-Atlantic, national foundation leaders observed the inadequacy of the philanthropic response to that devastating crisis. Every responsible foundation across the nation recognized that it needed to better prepare for the crisis that one day would arrive at its own front door.
Although hurricanes are unlikely to hit Door County, our groundwater and lakes are vulnerable, and our dependence on seasonal tourism presents a significant economic concentration of risk for people who make a living on our peninsula.
There seems to be a growing desire to demonize and divide ourselves from our seasonal friends at the very time when we should be pulling together.
At the Door County Community Foundation, we didn’t know what kind of crisis would hit Door County, but we knew one was inevitable. Thus, in 2013, we very quietly created protocols for the Door County Emergency Response Fund and then put them on the shelf and prayed we would never have to use them.
On March 19 – envisioning the tremendous economic damage that lay ahead – we activated the Door County Emergency Response Fund. In doing so, we also decided to partner with United Way, whose professional staff has a depth of human-service expertise that we knew would be exceptionally helpful. It didn’t matter whose fund it was or who was there first. All that mattered was marshaling our resources and pulling together as one county like we’ve never done before.
I share this story because I see a disturbing division developing in Door County. There seems to be a growing desire to demonize and divide ourselves from our seasonal friends at the very time when we should be pulling together. We must recognize that it doesn’t matter whose county this is or who was here first. All that matters is the need to marshal our resources and hold together as one county.
We should abide by the state’s Safer at Home order, which says, “Travel to second homes or residences should be avoided if possible.” That is the best thinking from our scientists and health-care professionals, and we should respect that. Yet the only way we will endure the economic pain ahead is if we support one another in a spirit of community – and that community very much includes our seasonal residents. Door County would be greatly diminished without them.
Our friends at United Way tell us that the Door County Emergency Response Fund has received more contributions on a per capita basis than any other similar effort in Wisconsin, and these donations are already doing a tremendous amount of good. The fund is helping to pay for hundreds of meals a day for people who are out of work. It’s buying diapers and formula for struggling parents. It’s equipping medical facilities with COVID-19 test kits and related equipment. You can read a complete list of all of the distributions at RespondDoorCounty.org.
The Emergency Response Fund will become even more important later this year when the economic damage spreads because of the loss of much of our season. We all know people who work a ridiculous number of hours during the warm months, then use that income to sustain themselves through the cold months. What’s going to happen to those families next fall and winter when they have to live without any summer savings? The Emergency Response Fund is a critically important tool that we will use to quickly shift money around to the organizations that are doing the best job of helping our year-round neighbors who are struggling.
Thus far, at least 68 percent of the money that’s been donated to the Emergency Response Fund has come from checks with mailing addresses outside of Door County and/or from people we know to be seasonal residents.
Here’s the thing, though: Thus far, at least 68 percent of the money that’s been donated to the Emergency Response Fund has come from checks with mailing addresses outside of Door County and/or from people we know to be seasonal residents. Given that there are a lot of donors whom we’ve never met, it’s likely that seasonal residents account for even more than 68 percent of contributions.
I’m not implying that seasonal residents are more important to Door County than those of us who live here all year long. But I do want to remind everyone that we are at our best when we function as one community, both year-round and seasonal residents alike. Regardless of how many months we’re here, we all love Door County and care passionately about its future. We would do well to remember that.
If we’re to endure the pain that’s ahead of us, we will need each other more than ever before. We can get through this, but only if we hold together as one community.Contact Bret Bicoy at [email protected].