How Chattanooga-area nonprofits, businesses and government agencies worked together to address community needs amid the pandemic

Staff photo by C.B. Schmelter / Erin Evans, left, helps to pick up packed meals at East Brainerd Elementary School on March 20, 2020 in Chattanooga, Tenn.

In early March, United Way of Greater Chattanooga employees gathered to discuss the burgeoning coronavirus. At the time, only one case had been confirmed in Hamilton County. Tennessee's shelter-in-place order was still weeks away.

But the team, whose job is to help pool support among local charitable organizations, decided to do a quick teleconference with a dozen or so of its closest nonprofit partners. It was envisioned as a quick check-in about their concerns regarding the coronavirus and its implications, says Abby Garrison, vice president of Venture Froward at United Way.

That call evolved into an in-person meeting - "Our last one for a long time," Garrison says. "But we didn't know it at the time."

That evening, more than 40 nonprofits showed up to discuss the ways they may be affected by potential shutdowns.