The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020 disrupted every aspect of our lives. Suddenly, residents were without jobs and steady income, businesses needed to close in-person operations, and fear and uncertainty underscored our days. Near West Side Partners implemented a number of economic relief efforts to help residents and small businesses, awarding over $30,000 in grants to help businesses fund rent and payroll expenses and over $10,000 in rental assistance to community members in need. Despite the economic difficulties, 349 of the Near West Side’s 350 businesses remained open.
With new discoveries occurring daily, community education was a priority. Near West Side Partners utilized its social media channels to disseminate accurate, up-to-date information about COVID-19 to its residents and businesses. With the help of the Ambassadors and Marquayla Ellison of Ellastic Designs, NWSP developed sidewalk stencils to apply COVID-19 related messaging to high traffic areas, making information accessible when face-to-face communication was limited.
In Summer 2021, following the development and widespread distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine, things appeared to be heading in the right direction for this city, but certain areas still lagged behind in vaccination numbers and were still at risk. In June 2021, only 20% of Near West Side residents were vaccinated against COVID-19, far below the city’s vaccination rate of about 48%, For many, the end was not in sight.
Near West Side Partners received a grant from DHS to help support education and vaccination efforts. Partnering with City on a Hill and Neighborhood House of Milwaukee, and offering support to a number of other organizations, Near West Side Partners helped promote and facilitate dozens of free vaccine clinics, vaccinating hundreds of community members.
To incentivize receiving the vaccine, Near West Side Partners worked with beloved neighborhood restaurant Daddy’s Soul Food & Grille to provide a gift card to every resident who got vaccinated at a community clinic, helping both move the needle on community health and support a local business.