Joint Chatham ‘Solidarity Fund’ moves to next phase of COVID-19 relief distribution


SILER CITY — The Solidarity Fund, a collaborative fundraising effort to support Chatham County residents who don’t qualify for federal stimulus checks or unemployment during COVID-19, has raised more than $140,000.

That’s well short of the $360,000 goal of the fund’s creators, but enough to start helping some of the 330 applicants who are seeking assistance during the pandemic.

Participating entities in the Solidarity Fund include the Hispanic Liaison, Chatham Habitat for Humanity, Chatham County Partnership for Children, Chatham Literacy Council, El Futuro, Kidscope and Chatham Organizing for Racial Equity. The group is also receiving support from Julie Wilkerson of the Chatham Health Alliance, who manages much of the infrastructure and volunteer management for the project.

“We partnered with other Chatham County organizations to create this fund to help families in Chatham County who either lost work or are working less hours that don’t qualify for the stimulus or unemployment,” said Ilana Dubester, the executive director of the Hispanic Liaison. “It’s no family left behind in our county.”

Dubester said the “mixed immigration status” of many Chatham County families disqualifies them for much of the federal and state COVID-19 assistance available. While U.S. citizens are eligible for the federal stimulus, stimulus package legislation states that if a U.S. citizen is married to someone who is undocumented and file their taxes jointly, they will not qualify. In addition, undocumented residents do not qualify for unemployment benefits. This, Dubester said, excludes of a lot of Chatham residents.

“The purpose is to equalize a little bit the playing field,” she said.

The group has received 330 applications from families who are seeking help. Dubester said that there are “many more families to help than money to help” as the goal was to send families a “significant check.”

Now they begin the tough task of determining which families will qualify for aid. Only Chatham residents can qualify for this “one-time assistance,” but other factors may come into play such as family size or other challenges they face. A committee drawn from members of the collaborating non-profits will start prioritizing the applications this week.

“The committee will review everything and decide on amount and how many families we can help with that amount,” Dubester said. “It’s not easy. One way or another, we’re going to have to prioritize families and it’s unlikely we will be able to help all the families that applied.”

Dubester said she hopes that the fund will continue to receive donations, with foundations stepping up to answer the call, and residents continuing to support the effort. As more funding comes in, the group will continue to disburse money or gift cards to as many families as possible.

“We don’t want to make promises to families that don’t make the cut,” Dubester said. “I don’t want to give hope when we most likely will not have enough unless a miracle donor falls from the sky and gives us another $100,000.”

“I know we’re going to be disappointing many families but still we should be able to help over 100 families,” she said.

Dubester said that even with the shortfall in the total goal of the fund, she is grateful for the way “people are stepping up in amazing ways to help families in Chatham County that are less privileged than we are.”

“I am super proud of our community and its generosity,” Dubester said. “We are in this together. That’s the message Chatham County is sending out to community. We are neighbors. We are friends. We work together and we’re here for each other.”

Casey Mann can be reached at