The newly established nonprofit Community Foundation of Otsego County had planned a summer rollout as a local charity, but the coronavirus pandemic gave it a different mission.

Started by Board President and Springfield Center resident Harry Levine, a former real estate developer and former chair of the Otsego Land Trust, the foundation quickly pivoted, establishing the COVID-19 Relief and Recovery Fund for Otsego County. Tuesday, April 28, six days after its new purpose was announced, the group said it had raised an initial $127,000 to start the fund. 

"It is not the end. It is the beginning," Levine told The Daily Star on Tuesday. 

"I tell you what is impressive," he said. "The Board of Directors allocated $20,000 from our really small treasury to get things started. Then our board members agreed to donate an additional $30,000 to see if we could get a one-to-one match. Well, 72 hours after we made that announcement, the match had been achieved. 

"Then a local family foundation ... said they would also donate $20,000 and said, 'see if you can do a one-for-one match, again.' Another 72 hours later and we had also achieved that match," Levine said. 

The COVID fund has three priorities, Levine said: to support local people on the "front lines" during the pandemic, including first responders, medical personnel and grocery store workers; to support people who have been affected by the pandemic, either from getting the virus or from losing their jobs; to help small businesses that have been hurt by the pandemic. 

Levine said applications for help can be submitted any time, and they will be reviewed as soon as they are submitted. A six-person review committee made of three board members and three community members will review the applications and make decisions quickly, he said. 

"We've already got some requests for funding and we are considering them," he said. 

There are 15 people on the foundation's board of directors, according to its website, including local politicians and business people. Oneonta Mayor Gary Herzig is the board's vice president, lawyer Robert Schlather is the secretary and Bank of Cooperstown President Scott White is the treasurer. 

Levine said the foundation is still looking for donors and other community partners, too. 

"What we are hoping is many members of the community will join us, individuals, businesses and foundations," he said. "It is a team effort. We're one community and we're one county." 

Eventually, the foundation will get back to its original mission, he said, but not until the pandemic and its effects subside. 

"Our focus is entirely on this pandemic," Levine said. "We are completely absorbed by it.

"However, the foundation is meant to be a permanent part of the community," he said. 

To donate or fill out an application go to www.CFOtsego.org or visit the group at CFOtsego on Facebook. 

 Greg Klein, staff writer, can be reached at gklein@thedailystar.com or 607-441-7218.

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