Collaborating to Support Disaster Relief

The Craig H. Neilsen Foundation and United Spinal Association (USA) have become a formidable team when disaster strikes. The two organizations have worked together over the years on smaller projects, but it wasn’t until the pandemic that they truly partnered, sharing ideas and resources to directly support the SCI community. A $1 million grant supported United Spinal’s activities and COVID-relief outreach in 2020.A man in a power wheelchair smiles as he is welcomed into his new accessible kitchen by a caregiver

In 2019, the Neilsen Foundation awarded United Spinal a three-year grant to develop an emergency preparedness program for individuals with SCI. A large grant to establish a Disaster Relief initiative followed in 2021. This provides vital grants to its chapters across the country, as well as its individual members. With this support, United Spinal established a grant program to support people living with SCI impacted by hurricanes, wildfires, and other natural catastrophes. (Pictured right: Renovated Louisiana home destroyed by Hurricane Ida ready for move-in.)

The initiative speaks directly to the mission of both organizations. Because United Spinal has the ability to respond directly to individuals, which is outside the scope of the Neilsen Foundation’s funding mandate, this partnership is extremely important—and it has grown in 2022. This year, after Hurricane Fiona swept through Puerto Rico, United Spinal provided 100 individuals in need of assistance with grants of $3,000 each and are in the process of responding to requests in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian. The grants have helped those impacted to purchase gasoline for generators, replace food items, cover displacement costs, and repair equipment and property.

“Our team has been working closely with the individuals to understand their situations,” Abby Ross, USA’s Chief Operating Officer, says. “We are managing insurance coverage and claim status and identifying vendors to assist with repairs, while responding to the needs with financial grants to assist with recovery.

“The process has been slow as folks have been displaced and it takes time to gather information, so we anticipate working for a few more months to make sure assistance is provided.”

Through 2022, the Disaster Relief initiative has brought help and hope to those impacted by storms, floods, and wildfires all over the United States, in areas like Louisiana, New York, and Oregon, providing over $3.1 million in funding.