The extraordinary challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic is again presenting the Milwaukee community with a moment that defines its social responsibility, and an opportunity to stand up and meet the crisis that threatens all residents.

To help alleviate the profound impact the coronavirus outbreak is having on Milwaukee and beyond, a group of philanthropic partners announced their coordinated approach on March 20 to identifying greatest needs and quickly activating funding support and volunteer resources for maximum community impact.

“Public health has been our primary focus, but the pandemic also has affected thousands of people by disrupting their lives and creating economic hardships. In our community, there are lots of concerned and generous people who are ready to help,” Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said. “Working together, we can make sure the greatest needs are addressed in a coordinated and thoughtful way. I appreciate the work of all the partners who have joined together.

The people and nonprofits who serve local communities are facing mounting obstacles and disruptions to their missions, just as the people who rely on those services need them most. Sustaining their essential work amid economic strain, physical distancing and increasing demand requires innovative solutions that mobilize resources and support the most effective strategies for today’s unprecedented challenges.

“Though our community faces both uncertainty and adversity caused by the evolving COVID-19 pandemic, the philanthropic community is leaning on its long history of compassionate generosity and commitment to the health and well-being of greater Milwaukee to guide our cooperation today,” said Ellen Gilligan, president and CEO of the Greater Milwaukee Foundation. “Our certainty that we are greater together is a powerful catalyst for today’s solutions, and we will continue to work collectively to protect our community’s health, economy and quality of life.”

Driven by this necessity, the philanthropic partners have come together to align resources that complement the ongoing work of experts in public health and government while increasing the capacity of local agencies and programs on the front lines of the pandemic to do the greatest good. Building on the investment each of the partners already is making in addressing urgent issues, the collaboration will help ensure resources are provided in a coordinated and strategic manner in response to immediate needs while also planning for the long-term recovery of the community. The intent is to leverage resources jointly and more effectively provide needed service to individuals, families and organizations.

“Every day I hear from members of our community who ask one simple question: ‘What can I do to help?’” said Amy Lindner, president & CEO of United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County. “We are so grateful to everyone who has contributed to our Urgent Needs Fund, as well as offered their volunteer services. Our top priorities continue to be getting supplies and money to nonprofits that are continuing to serve clients, as well as meeting other urgent needs in our community. In these unprecedented times, United Way is proud to stand alongside so many great organizations to help those in need. Together, we are showing the world that we are at our very best when we Live United.”

Initial community partners include, Advancing a Healthier Wisconsin Endowment, Bader Philanthropies, Brewers Community Foundation, Burke Foundation, Greater Milwaukee Committee, Greater Milwaukee Foundation and its donors, Herb Kohl Philanthropies, Milwaukee Public Schools, Northwestern Mutual Foundation, United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County, Wells Fargo, and Zilber Family Foundation

“At this unprecedented time of challenge, we need to take bold and decisive action,” said Dr. John Raymond, Sr., president and CEO of the Medical College of Wisconsin, which is home to the Advancing a Healthier Wisconsin Endowment, a statewide health philanthropy. “As health care providers and public health experts across Wisconsin strive to bring testing to the front lines and to flatten the curve of the spread of COVID-19, this funding is badly needed for the health and well-being of our citizens and the communities that need us the most.”

The partners have already raised $1.2 million and counting toward the response effort. They are also is developing a method for community engagement to keep apprised of emerging needs and inform resource deployment. Among the needs already surfacing as most critical are access to food, housing and shelter, and medical needs.

“Milwaukee Public Schools is extremely grateful to the philanthropic community in the city of Milwaukee. We appreciate how the community is stepping up to help support the students and families of Milwaukee Public Schools during this challenging health emergency,” said Dr. Keith P. Posley, superintendent of schools, Milwaukee Public Schools. “Our collective efforts will address some of our families’ most basic needs.”

The Milwaukee Independent began reporting on what was then referred to as the mysterious “Wuhan Virus” in January 2020. Other local media did not picked-up on the story until many weeks later. Our early features focused on the economic impact, social issues, and health concerns long before other Milwaukee news organizations even mentioned the coronavirus. Over the following year, we have published hundreds of articles about the pandemic and how it has affected the lives of Milwaukee residents. This extensive body of work can be found on our COVID-19 Special Report page, a chronological index of links by month. Our editorial voice remains dedicated to informing the public about this health crisis for as long as it persists.
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