COVID-19 has hit black communities hard in Michigan, and several groups are coming together to bring help.

Battle Creek nonprofit, New Level Sports Ministries (NLSM) was awarded over $200,000 in state funding through the Michigan Coronavirus Task Force on Racial Disparities to distribute personal protective equipment (PPE) and educational material to the historic Battle Creek Washington Heights neighborhood.

Washington Heights is home to 60 percent of Battle Creek’s black population, the demographic most affected by COVID-19. The majority of residents have limited access to quality PPE, and struggle with rising unemployment, poverty and lack of access to healthcare. PPE will be provided by STEWART Industries, a long-standing African American-owned business under the Healthy Battle Creek campaign.

Pastor Chris McCoy-Provided

“Many Battle Creek organizations have worked throughout the pandemic to deliver as much coronavirus relief funding as possible, despite limited resources,” said Pastor Chris McCoy, executive director of New Level Sports Ministries. “The funding provided through the Rapid Response Initiative will save lives in our community by providing much-needed PPE to families, especially during the holidays which could become super spreader gatherings.”

 

The Michigan Coronavirus Task Force was created per Executive Order 2020-55, to study the causes of racial disparities and recommend actions to address the historical and systemic inequities. The Rapid Response Initiative was created, under the task force, to implement a rapid response strategy to mediate the impact of service gaps and special needs that can be addressed in 120 days.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately impacted communities of color in Michigan,” said Erick Stewart, president of STEWART Industries. “African Americans represent nearly 14 percent of the state’s population, yet they represent 40 percent of the deaths from coronavirus. Our community is literally dying due to a lack of resources and access to care. The NLSM Healthy Battle Creek campaign will save lives through the distribution of PPE with the help of key community partners.”

New Level Sports Ministries, partners, and stakeholders, upon receiving funds, will finalize strategic community partnerships with economic development partners, and the larger ministry community to ensure success. STEWART Industries is assembling 1,200 initial PPE Resource Kits to be delivered before Thanksgiving.      The kits include 3-ply disposable masks, disinfectant wipes, sanitizer, gloves, and more.

The first round of kits will be distributed Saturday, November 21 from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. at New Level Sports Ministries, 400 Michigan Ave. West, Battle Creek, MI 49037. Anyone picking up a kit on the 21st is asked to wear a mask and to socially distance. Please call NLSM at 269.964.4172 with questions.

In partnership with The Black 14 Philanthropy and Latter-day Saint Charities, an estimated 40,000 pounds of food which were donated earlier in the week to New Level Sports Ministries will also be distributed along with the PPE kits to those families and individuals with food needs.

“Connecting and partnering with residents of Washington Heights is the most crucial piece. Ultimately, we can ensure successful project execution by delivering on our partnerships with at-risk individuals, who need access to PPE, and young students, who will need virtual learning resources,” said McCoy.

The Healthy Battle Creek community-wide campaign will be managed by NLSM and community partners. Organizers are hoping the Battle Creek campaign will become a model for other cities to address racial and health disparities and systemic inequities.

For those interested in supporting Healthy Battle Creek, click here.

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