Nonprofit searching for missing service members feels impact from pandemic

Posted at 10:33 PM, May 25, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-25 23:29:40-04

TAMPA, Fla. -- The flag, coins and pieces from the wreckage of an airplane are reminders for Tonja Anderson-Dell of her grandfather and her new mission -- helping families find missing service members.

"My heart and my mission is to help families just like me who’s going through what I’m going through when they hear no it’s not feasible," she said.

Her grandfather, Airman Issac Anderson Sr., died at 21 years old alongside 51 other soldiers in the 1950s. Their military cargo plane crashed into an Alaskan glacier. Anderson-Dell pushed to keep searching for the wreckage. In 2012, it was spotted by a Blackhawk training mission. Her grandfather was finally identified and brought home to his family last year.

Since then, Anderson-Dell launched the nonprofit, Honored Bound.

"Honored Bound was created because there’s a void in our government looking for what you call non war loss operation service loss men and women," she said.


Unfortunately for Anderson-Dell, funding she had banked on is now at a trickle because of the pandemic.

"We were having a bunch of fundraisers, all of that has stopped, everything’s been canceled," she said.

The pandemic is also hurting many other nonprofit organizations.

"Nonprofits have been working around the clock to continue to fulfill their missions while working with fewer dollars and many many more clients or requests for their services," said Sabeen Perwaiz, the executive director of the Florida Nonprofit Alliance.

In a report prepared by the organization, 98 percent of responding nonprofit organizations reported being affected by COVID-19. Nearly 80 percent experienced a negative financial impact, 73 percent had a disruption in their services and a third had an increase in demand.

"We’ve seen a lot of creativity from the sector as well. Some nonprofits have moved their luncheons online," Perwaiz said. "A lot of sponsors have continued to sponsor events that are not taking place."

Perwaiz said they're encouraging people to continue to give as if they had went to an organization's fundraising event if they can, or if they make an annual contribution at the end of the year to donate earlier if they are able.

"Folks forget that nonprofits are also employers so this isn’t just about services that are provided," she said.

Anderson-Dell said she's in touch with dozens of family members of service men and women yet to be found. She planned to travel to Alaska in July to search for another missing plane. But now, she said still plans to go, even if it means she has to dig into her own pockets.

"I'm still going and will still find a way," she said.