‘Stretched to Their Limits’: Foundation Comes to Aid of Health Departments

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit our area in March, no one was prepared for what was to come. No one could have predicted the shortfall of personal protective equipment, tests and other supplies that healthcare agencies would need to combat this unrelenting enemy.

River Valley Health Foundation Inc. is a public charity that provides funding in support of health education for members of the community as well as health care professionals in several local counties. The foundation realized that the resources of local health departments were being stretched to their limits in dealing with this public health crisis.


“The foundation’s grant committee and board members came together quickly during this crisis to assist with the most immediate health needs of our community,” said Cynthia Morrison, RVHF executive director. “The foundation is proud to assist our health departments who are on the front lines of attack at this crucial time.”

While other emergency funding was often slow to materialize, RVHF acted quickly to award five local health departments grants totaling $25,000 to assist with their COVID-related needs. The foundation’s swift response was vital in making an immediate impact in the greater Wheeling area.

“Emergency aid applications were sent to all health departments in the counties served by the foundation,” Morrison shared. “Each local health department received a grant award of $5,000 based on the foundation’s emergency grant application arising out of the COVID-19 crisis.”

Health departments in Jefferson County, Ohio, as well as those in Ohio, Brooke, Marshall and Wetzel counties in West Virginia each submitted an emergency aid application and were awarded the funding. The funds will be used to conduct COVID-19 testing, perform disease identification and contact tracing and notification, monitor individuals in quarantine, provide public education, and purchase personal protective equipment and other supplies.


Wheeling-Ohio County Health Department Administrator Howard Gamble is grateful for the grant monies and says that they were put to good use. “This grant allowed us to put on our two free testing clinics that were held in Wheeling June 5 and 6 and June 19 and 20. The funds were used to promote the clinic and to provide supplies and food for the volunteers, National Guard and staff,” Gamble said. “We also used the funds to purchase clinical thermometers and procedure masks.”

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One of the free Ohio County testing clinics held in June and funded by the grant money.

Kelly Wilson is the Fiscal, Grants and Public Information Officer for the Jefferson County, Ohio, General Health District. She said, “The JCGHD is extremely grateful to the River Valley Health Foundation for their generous grant of $5,000. Our annual supply budget could not have handled the large quantities of items we have had to secure as a result of COVID-19. This grant has enabled us to secure the additional supplies needed to keep our offices clean and sanitized not only for our employees, but for the residents we serve. Employees are wiping down their work surfaces multiple times each day and we are constantly washing our hands or using hand sanitizer.”

“The health department has remained open throughout the pandemic,” Wilson continued. “One of the first things we did when we received our funding was order mini portable spray bottles along with gallon jugs of hand sanitizer and prepared these for distribution to clients coming in to the health department for any type of service. These small portable sprayers are great for folks to keep in their car or in their purse when they are out and about. Our goal is to help stop the spread of COVID-19, and anything we can do to assist the community in doing so is a win for everyone. Thanks to the RVHF, this was possible.”  

The JCGHD will also use the funding to purchase a bulk order of masks to distribute to citizens who may not have the means to obtain one on their own. “The mission of the JCGHD is ‘Working to prevent disease, promote health and protect our community.’ All of the funding received from the RVHF is being utilized to protect the health and well-being of our county residents,” said Wilson with appreciation.

According to Morrison, RVHF was pleased to be able to provide these grants to the health departments that applied for them.

Additional information about the work done by the RVHF can be found here.

A lifelong Wheeling resident, Ellen Brafford McCroskey is a proud graduate of Wheeling Park High School and the former Wheeling Jesuit College. By day, she works for an international law firm; by night, (and often on her lunch breaks and weekends) she enjoys moonlighting as a part-time writer. Please note that the views expressed in her writing are solely her own and do not necessarily reflect those of anyone else, including her full-time employer. Through her writing, Ellen aims to enlighten others on causes close to her heart, particularly addiction, recovery and equal rights. She and her husband Doug reside in Warwood with their clowder of rescued cats, each of whom is a direct consequence of his job as the Ohio County Dog Warden. Their family includes four adult children, their spouses and several grandkids.