Fund Partners, 

I went to the oldest high school in the United States. In fact, it was founded before the United States was even a country. In those days – the late 1700s – shipping was very important. Large wooden sailing ships were how most people traveled and how most commerce was done. As you can imagine, there were a lot of shipwrecks. Ships rarely sank slowly on their own. It was usually due to a disaster event of some kind: a forceful storm, an attack, or a collision with a large rock. When a shipwreck occurred, the greatest chance of survival was to stay alive until you were found.

So, my high school had a traditional requirement – dating back to the days of its founding – that all students had to show proficiency in “drownproofing.” In order to graduate, I had to demonstrate, through a series of physical tests, my ability to survive in the ocean for 24 hours, both uninjured and injured. The latter evaluation was simulated by being thrown into the water with my feet tied together and my hands tied behind my back, at which point I was expected to survive for an hour.

Now living in southeast Florida, I spend a good amount of time in the ocean, and I’m grateful for the drownproofing skills I gained as a teenager. Luckily, we’ve also made some progress in 300 years, and now I have a personal Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) that can signal my position to the Coast Guard in a crisis. I also ensure that I always have a small amount of food and water with me, which – if lost for an extended period – could greatly improve my chances of survival until I’m found.

How does this relate to the work we do at Emergency Assistance Foundation? I view the grants we make as the food and water that are meant to extend the chances of survival if lost in the ocean. Our grants do not solve all the problems that a recipient faces, but they do provide essential assistance in the interim between disaster or hardship and recovery. And that can make a big difference.

Our goal – as it has always been – is to help as many people as we can, as quickly as we can. And we continually look for ways to achieve this: by allowing more organizations that want to help their own to establish relief funds; by improving our internal application review and grant disbursement processes; by sharing our knowledge of relief fund best practices with others in the industry; by remaining open to all possibilities and steadfast in our efforts. We often speak to the data surrounding what we do – $47 million in grants to 63,000 people so far this year – but we never forget that behind every number is a real person who we’re helping on their path to recovery.