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Milwaukee-area newsmakers: How companies are giving back amid the coronavirus crisis

Date
May 6, 2020
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Online Article

Southeast Wisconsin businesses, social services groups, nonprofits and others have answered the call to help others during this historic pandemic.

In true Midwest spirit, they are adapting their businesses, making financial contributions, donating goods and services, manual labor and whatever else it takes to keep people healthy and safe, or recover to good health, and to maintain our economy.


Following are examples of the goodwill that companies, organizations and individuals are exhibiting in these trying times. (Of course, we all have to thank those working in health care and first responder roles for the unimaginable tasks taken on during this health care crisis.)

EmOpti Inc., a Brookfield-based tech company that developed telepresence software to help doctors perform an initial, virtual triage of patients to decrease wait times in emergency rooms, is making its technology free to health care networks across the country over the next three months. Read more details here.

Milwaukee-area manufacturers including Husco International Inc., Rexnord Corp. and Briggs & Stratton Corp. are joining with educational institutions and local health organizations to form a coalition dubbed the Milwaukee MaskForce to produce personal protective equipment during the COVID-19 pandemic. Read the story here.

A group of Milwaukee foundations and organizations, including Herb Kohl Charities, the Greater Milwaukee Foundation and Brewers Community Foundation, have formed a coalition and already raised $1.2 million to help coordinate much-needed resources for the Milwaukee-area during the coronavirus pandemic. See details here.

Master Lock Co., a lock manufacturer based in Oak Creek, is donating one Smart Lock or lock box to health care facilities to protect its personal protection and critical equipment during the coronavirus pandemic. See more here.

The Green Bay Packers are putting a total of $1.5 million into relief funds created to support initiatives and groups serving Brown County and Milwaukee-area residents impacted by the spread of the novel coronavirus. More details here.

Monterey Mills, a Janesville-based textile mill and supplier of fabrics, and Oak Creek-based Eder Flag, the nation’s largest manufacturer of flags and flagpoles, are teaming up to fill the regional and national demand for respirator masks. Read more here.

Molson Coors Beverage Co. is giving $1 million to the U.S. Bartenders’ Guild to support bartenders and other industry professionals impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly with bars and restaurants closing. The funds will support workers and their families for necessities including food purchases, rent, and utilities and medical bills. Read more here.

Racine-based cleaning supplies manufacturer S.C. Johnson & Son Inc. is committing $5 million in products and monetary contributions to support public needs during the COVID-19 pandemic. Read more here.

Angelic Bakehouse in Cudahy said it will match every purchase of a new Donate A Loaf product on its website, with two loaves then going to Feeding America. The company intends to scale this program over the duration of this global crisis and hopes to help up to 20,000 Milwaukee-area families get bread over the next few months. To learn more, visit the firm’s website.

Colorful Connections LLC, a Milwaukee-based startup and full-service diversity talent agency, is expanding services to support thousands of workers who have been displaced due to COVID-19. The social enterprise is connecting any displaced worker with high-demand, trainable roles (i.e., health care support positions, cleaners, grocery retail, etc.). Additionally, 100% of profits will be donated to the United Way COVID-19 Community Response and Recovery Fund. Employers and displaced workers seeking help with job opportunities can contact David Brady at David@ColorfulConnections.com or visit ColorfulConnections.com for more information.

United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County is accepting the community’s support of its COVID-19 Urgent Needs Fund, which allows the organization to better meet the increased needs of its nonprofit partners. More than 350 individual donors and companies have made contributions to the fund so far, including Baird, BMO Harris Bank, Deloitte, 88Nine, GE Healthcare, HSA Bank, Landmark Credit Union, Meijer, Northwestern Mutual, UW Credit Union, We Energies Foundation and Weyco. Donations to the COVID-19 Urgent Needs Fund can be made here.

Visit Milwaukee, the area’s travel and tourism bureau, has launched a video put together by its staff to send a message of hope and reassurance to its clients, partners and community. You can watch the video here.

Also, for more information on Visit Milwaukee’s response to COVID-19, click here.

American Family Insurance and its group companies, along with the American Family Insurance Dreams Foundation, recently announced more than $4 million in support for COVID-19 pandemic relief and other nonprofit efforts. Additional support from the Steve Stricker American Family Insurance Foundation is expected to push the total support to more than $6.8 million.

In addition to American Family Insurance, other group companies involved in the effort include Homesite, The General®, Main Street America and CONNECT, powered by American Family Insurance. For more information, visit the American Family Newsroom.

Zywave, a Wauwatosa-based insurance technology company, recently launched an online resource center for insurance companies and brokers that provides content and resources related to the novel coronavirus pandemic. The COVID-19 Resource Center includes information to help insurance professionals guide their clients in ways that will keep them compliant with state and federal laws and content for human resource teams to help their business continue operations, and content for employers to help answer questions from employees about COVID-19. See more here.

10 tech companies donate over $1.4 billion to fight coronavirus

They aren’t exactly local, but leading tech companies with a majority based in the U.S. have donated at least $1.4 billion toward mitigating the coronavirus, according to data gathered by Learnbonds.com.

Google has donated about $800 million to businesses and health care workers, while Cisco has pledged $225 million. Social networking platform Facebook has donated $120 million, and the Dell Foundation has pledged $100 million. Also, Netflix is offering $115 million in relief funds.

Other companies making large donations include Amazon ($32 million), Samsung ($29 million), Apple ($15 million), Microsoft ($1 million) and Twitter ($1 million). Read more here.

Milwaukee World Festival Inc. has donated critical safety equipment to the Milwaukee Police Department. The organization gave 700 Tyvek suits and 200 pairs of shoe coverings to the police department on April 3. Milwaukee World Festival, operator of Summerfest, originally purchased the products from one of its vendors, Ten2Communications.

Milwaukee World Festival Inc. was made aware of the opportunity to provide a donation after the COVID-19 pandemic began. The organization then made the purchase to support the Milwaukee Police Department. The suits are personal protective equipment and can be used for a variety of purposes relating to COVID-19 hazardous scenes. Read more here.

Move.org is offering one-time, $1,000 moving grants to help cover unexpected moving costs related to the pandemic. Anyone over the age of 18 who was forced to relocate because of COVID-19 is eligible to apply. Applications are open through end-of-day on April 16. Find application forms here.

The National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum in Milwaukee has surpassed $130,000 in donations to support the American Hospital Association’s 100 Million Mask Challenge through the sale of Dr. Anthony Fauci bobbleheads. Dr. Fauci is one of the lead members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force. In less than a week after its introduction, people from all 50 states and over a dozen countries purchased the bobblehead honoring Dr. Fauci.

In addition, the Hall of Fame and Museum has unveiled the first bobblehead of Dr. Deborah Birx, the coronavirus response coordinator for the White House Coronavirus Task Force often sharing podium space with Dr. Fauci during press conferences. The bobbleheads sell for $25, with $5 from each sale donated to support the 100 Million Mask Challenge. Learn more here.

Roundy’s Supermarkets Inc. of Milwaukee, operator of Pick ‘n Save and Metro Market stores, recently donated more than $1,500 worth of pet supplies to the Wisconsin Humane Society to support the group’s Pets for Life program. Supplies included over 150 packages of dog food, cat food and cat litter. “WHS has been deemed an essential organization and the support of the community is needed now more than ever,” said Billy Zakrzewski, corporate philanthropic adviser for the Wisconsin Humane Society. Learn more about WHS and its Pets for Life program here.

FASTSIGNS in Glendale recently showed its support of local health care workers by providing 50 meals from Milwaukee Brat House-Downtown to emergency room and intensive care unit employees at Aurora Sinai Hospital in downtown Milwaukee. “We are proud and thankful for those who are working tirelessly to keep us safe,” said Robb Schmit, franchisee at FASTSIGNS. “We wanted to show our support and appreciation for the difference these heroes are making in our community.”

Caleres, a portfolio of global footwear brands that include Franco Sarto and Port Washington-based Allen Edmonds, is helping address supply shortages and needs of health care workers during the coronavirus crisis. Caleres has redirected workers to manufacture thousands of masks per day at its Allen Edmonds factory in Port Washington, and deliver to local hospitals in need.

Caleres also has donated N-95 masks to health care systems and first responders in New York City and St. Louis, and has partnered with CROCS to deliver free footwear to health care professionals. The company also is donating shoes to the Two Ten Footwear Foundation’s Share Your Shoes campaign drive.

Milwaukee Pretzel Co. produces heart-shaped pretzel for Feeding America

Milwaukee Pretzel Co. is releasing a one-pound, heart-shaped pretzel with $1 of every order going to Feeding America. Co-founder Katie Wessel said the idea came to her and her husband after she was introduced to a Facebook group called Heart Hunters with people from around the country sharing positive posts and decorating their houses with hearts as a message of positivity and hope. The 12-inch pretzel costs $10 and is available with the company’s free home delivery or free shipment across the country. The $1 that goes to Feeding America will help provide three meals. Milwaukee Pretzel plans to continue the heart-shaped pretzels for at least the next few weeks. See more here.

The 10th Annual Milwaukee Day, an April 14 celebration of all things positive in the 414 area code, invites residents to patronize and support local neighbors in need. Its organizers have teamed up with Historic Milwaukee Inc. to facilitate support for businesses, organizations, venues and individuals affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In lieu of events, the Milwaukee Day website has converted itself to being a resource for members of the community to find people and places to help. The Help 414 page lists emergency fundraisers for furloughed employees, support networks for artists and performers who have lost work, and nonprofits providing critical services to the area’s most vulnerable residents, among others. See details here.

The Milwaukee Bucks have established an Emergency Relief Fund for Fiserv Forum’s part-time employees in response to the COVID-19 crisis. So far, the Bucks have provided $500,000 in financial assistance to the part-time employees, with an additional $500,000 forthcoming through the Emergency Relief Fund. As announced last month, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton each contributed $100,000, which was followed by all Bucks players committing to donate to the relief effort. Bucks ownership is matching all player donations.

The Bucks Emergency Relief Fund will also provide financial relief for part-time employees of Levy, Fiserv Forum’s food and beverage provider; ABM, the arena’s housekeeping employer; Reef Parking and SP+, the Deer District’s parking partners; and Menominee Nation Arena, home of the Bucks’ G League affiliate, the Wisconsin Herd in Oshkosh, during this unprecedented time.

Those interested in donating to the Bucks Emergency Relief Fund can visit Bucks.com/EmergencyReliefFund.

Cousins Subs, based in Menomonee Falls, has launched Cousins Cares – a campaign through which guests can pay it forward and order meals to be delivered to essential employees in Wisconsin. Participants can place an order for a 20-piece party box for delivery to an essential business in their community. Through April 30, participants will receive $15 off their order and will not be charged a delivery fee. To place an order, call or visit a participating Cousins Subs location and provide the name, address and phone number of the essential business the party box will be delivered to. Online and mobile ordering are not permitted. Each party box contains ham and provolone and turkey subs. See more here.

Visit Milwaukee has launched a website to highlight area hotels that are offering discounts to first responders and essential personnel on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic. “Our hope is that this website provides resources for them to find a safe place to sleep without the risk of bringing the virus home to their loved ones. A sincere thank you to our hotel community for meeting this need,” said Peggy Williams-Smith, president and CEO of Visit Milwaukee. The website is available here.

Kaplan Professional is offering free online education and skills development courses to individuals who have been furloughed or laid off from their jobs due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Kaplan has created a self-enrollment portal that will permit individuals to choose from a variety of online training courses that aim to help people develop and hone both personal and career skills. More than 30 courses will be available. Access the portal here. directly through https://professionalskillsfitness.kaplan.com/. Additional courses will be added to the library on an ongoing basis and as demand warrants.

Milwaukee startup firm washbnb launched its wash-and-fold laundry service in February originally designed to provide linen and laundry services for Airbnb hosts, but now the owners have shifted gears and are offering its services to assist at-risk consumers during the COVID-19 pandemic. By implementing its new services, washbnb plans to provide jobs for service industry employees who are currently out of work, including hiring people for wash-and-fold laundry and deliveries.

Laundry loads cost $20, and a $10 delivery fee is waived for those who are 60+ or immunocompromised. The firm also takes orders from people currently unable to pay and is accepting donations to cover the costs of washing those orders. Customers are also able to add tips to be split evenly among all hourly employees. Washbnb currently is accepting donations to gofundme.com/f/washbnbCOVID19FUND, or visit www.washbnb.com.

Kaplan Professional said it will offer free online education and skills development courses to individuals who have been furloughed or laid off from their jobs due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Kaplan has created a self-enrollment portal that permits individuals to choose from a variety of online training courses aimed to help people develop and hone personal and career skills. More than 30 courses will be available. Individuals can access the portal directly here. Additional courses will be added to the library on an ongoing basis and as demand warrants.

MKE Tech Hub donates 100 iPads to Milwaukee middle schoolers

The Milwaukee Tech Hub Coalition is providing 100 iPads to Milwaukee Public School middle schoolers to help families equip their households with devices that enable online learning for children. The foundations of coalition members Northwestern Mutual, Rockwell Automation and Johnson Controls helped secure the iPads while Madison-based Cascade Asset Management provided some of the iPad hardware.

Brewers set up $1 million fund to help employees at Miller Park

The Milwaukee Brewers have established a $1 million fund to provide financial assistance to Miller Park game day workers who have lost wages due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Six Milwaukee Brewers players and announcer Bob Uecker have so far contributed $300,000 to the fund. Ryan Braun was the first to commit with a $100,000 gift. Lorenzo Cain, Corey Knebel, Josh Lindblom, Brent Suter and Christian Yelich joined with additional pledges.

Discount Ramps, a Germantown-based online retailer of loading, hauling and storage products for commercial, industrial and residential applications, is supporting nearby communities of Washington County and the greater Milwaukee area by “paying it forward” with distribution of over 2,000 masks that were donated by key suppliers.

Focusing on organizations with front line workers, 900 masks were delivered to Froedtert Menomonee Falls Hospital, as well as another 400 masks to Children’s Hospital. Also, fire departments in Menomonee Falls and West Bend each received 200 masks. In Kewaskum, 100 masks were donated to the police/fire department and another 200 to the Kettle Moraine Gardens Nursing Home where they will be distributed among staff and residents.

Botanics & Health Inc., the maker of Tru-Releaf CBD lotion in Middleton, plans to donate 25% of its revenue to Aurora Health Care in Milwaukee to help support health care workers providing care during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to Michael Schultz, CEO of Botanics & Health, “As a member of the Wisconsin community, we want to support those who provide much-needed care to others. The sacrifice we are making financially can’t compare to the sacrifices they are making every day, and we will continue our support until the war against this pandemic is over.”

In early April, WISN 12 and the Hunger Task Force in Milwaukee launched an online food drive to help local families impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. As the fundraising campaign continues, the initiative has already raised $313,000, which is the equivalent of providing 4,173 boxes of food for Wisconsin families.

WISN 12 and Hunger Task Force are now teaming up with Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin and the state Department of Agriculture, Trade & Consumer Protection to recover and distribute Wisconsin milk to local families. Hunger Task Force has committed $1 million dollars to buy back the milk from dairy farmers, and a portion of the money raised during the WISN 12 online food drive will be devoted to purchasing the fresh milk from area farmers, that will then help feed Wisconsin families. To support the initiative, visit this website to make a monetary donation.

We Energies and Wisconsin Public Service recently announced they are contributing $1 million through their charitable foundations to help communities during the COVID-19 pandemic. The foundations will provide grants to nonprofit organizations supporting front line efforts — primarily hospitals, first responders and food pantries.

West Bend Mutual Insurance and the West Bend Mutual Insurance Charitable Trust have announced COVID-19 relief efforts to help the greater community. The company said April 8 it was sending one-time $50 payments to its Home and Highway policyholders and would extend policy due dates for those impacted by the crisis. It also gifted each company associate $150 to be donated to a favorite nonprofit or to use toward a restaurant carry-out patronage, and for its agents committing to donate $500, the company will pledge an additional $2,000.

The company’s charitable trust is awarding grants to more than 20 nonprofit organizations, with Feeding America and the Red Cross of Southeast Wisconsin each receiving $50,000. The company’s COVID-19 relief efforts so far for associates and charities are close to $750,000 in total.

Susan G. Komen Wisconsin has announced an immediate investment in its commitment to supporting area residents dealing with a breast cancer diagnosis during the COVID-19 pandemic. Komen Wisconsin invested $200,000 toward its Breast Cancer Assistance Fund, which provides financial assistance for local patients dealing with the crippling costs associated with breast cancer treatment. The investment will support the men and women who are uninsured or underinsured get the support they need to focus on battling the disease in the aftermath of COVID-19.

Nothing Bundt Cakes locations in the Milwaukee area and across the nation are delivering free Bundt Cakes to essential workers and are offering guests curbside delivery and pickup. Its local locations are at 18000 W. Bluemound Road in Brookfield and 383 W. Brown Deer Road, Fox Point.

To help feed families during the coronavirus crisis, Sargento Foods Inc. is donating $2 million in cheese to the Hunger Task Force and its membership organization, the Hunger Relief Federation of Wisconsin. To assist families outside Wisconsin, Sargento is providing donated cheese to Feeding America, the largest hunger relief organization in the U.S. Sargento, a family-owned cheese company based in Plymouth, is providing relief by donating a total of 15.8 million cheese sticks, which can feed more than 1.3 million households across the U.S.

Acuity Insurance in Sheboygan is making a special, $300,000 financial contribution equally distributed among three area charitable organizations to support COVID-19 relief efforts. The recipient groups include the Sheboygan County Food Bank, the Salvation Army and Feeding America.

Summerfest, Cousins Subs raising money to feed health care workers

Summerfest, Cousins Subs and Disrupt Idea Co. have launched a campaign encouraging the pubic to pay it forward with discounted sub sandwiches. From April 20-26, the three organizations are encouraging the public to make a donation to Cousins Subs’ Make It Better Foundation. Every dollar raised will be used to purchase discounted subs for health care workers on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cousins Subs, based in Menomonee Falls, is encouraging the public to make a donation at its website. Cousins Subs will use funds raised to purchase subs at a 25% discount for Aurora Health Care team members during the week of April 27.

Discovery World, the science museum along Milwaukee’s lakefront, is offering a program that for every new membership, gift membership or membership renewal purchased while the museum remains closed to the public, Discovery World will donate a free membership to the employers of essential service providers. These memberships can then be given to employees as a thank you. The memberships will become active on the day that the museum reopens. Learn more here.

Roundy’s Supermarkets and Kemps are supporting communities by partnering to provide much-needed nourishment to families in need during the coronavirus crisis. Milwaukee-based Roundy’s, operator of Pick ‘n Save and Metro Market food stores, is partnering with Kemps to donate 12 pallets of “Giving Cow” shelf-stable milk to Feeding America Eastern Wisconsin in Milwaukee. For more information, visit Kemp’s Giving Cow website.

The Milwaukee Repertory Theater has partnered with First Stage and Milwaukee Ballet to leverage resources to make masks and face shields for frontline workers at Children’s Hospital, Froedert and the Medical College of Wisconsin. The organizations so far have donated over 10,000 pieces of PPE with weekly deliveries ongoing thanks in part to funding from the Northwestern Mutual Foundation.

Bass Pro Shops founder Johnny Morris is personally donating one million FDA-approved ASTM Level 1 Procedure Face Masks to health care workers and first responders working on the front lines of the Covid-19 crisis across the United States. In the Milwaukee area, Crossing Rivers Health and Froedtert Hospital will receive 12,000 face masks total. Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s has teamed up with their long-standing partner Convoy of Hope on this effort.

West Bend Mutual Insurance Co. partnered with LeadingAge Wisconsin to award Safe Resident Assistance Endowment grants to seven long-term care facilities across the state. The grants will be used to purchase equipment to more safely and effectively move and lift residents. Such lifts and equipment are integral to creating a safe and dignified resident-handling program, especially during these difficult times of the Covid-19 pandemic. Milwaukee-area facilities receiving grants are the Maplewood Health Center-Village at Manor Park in West Allis and School Sisters of St. Francis-Sacred Heart, Milwaukee.

Following matching donations from Milwaukee Bucks player Khris Middleton and the Joseph and Vera Zibler Family Trust Fund, the Milwaukee Public Schools Foundation has now raised over $60,000 for its Covid-19 Relief Fund and Nutritional Support fund for MPS students and families throughout the district.

Middleton and the Joseph and Vera Zilber Family Trust Fund have given $25,000 each to provide MPS students with about 2,500 supply kits. Academic kits will include books, arts and crafts supplies, playing cards, board games and puzzles. Hygiene kits will include laundry detergent, hand soap and cleaning supplies.

In addition, Boswell Book Co. will provide funding and coordination for an effort to distribute books to families in need, while a collaboration between T-Mobile and MPS’ Strategic Partnerships department will distribute $5,000 in Walmart gift cards for families at Samuel Clemens School.

Sheet Metal Workers Local 18 and its union employers have teamed up to respond to requests from sewists throughout Wisconsin for aluminum nose clips for face masks in response to Covid-19. With over 120,000 nose clips already cut and being delivered and an additional 150,000 committed, the group anticipates nearly 300,000 nose clips to be available. Those making masks can request the metal clips by going to www.smart-union.org and follow the prompts to ActionNetwork.org.

As Covid-19 continues to create many challenges for families and individuals in Milwaukee, the Milwaukee Urban League is launching its Munch & Learn initiative, an outreach program that provides Power Paks to students and families at Oliver Wendell Holmes School and Auer Avenue School. The Munch & Learn supports students and families by providing snacks to fuel student learning at home, along with educational activity ideas and vital employment opportunities for the families. Power Pak bags will be distributed as families pick up laptops and other school materials needed during the state-sanctioned quarantine due to the ongoing pandemic.

Milwaukee-based luxury vacation rental business Poshabodes is supporting frontline workers at Aurora Sinai Medical Center with the donation of self-care kits. These kits, which include 15 items and are valued at $150, will go to medical staff on shifts in the emergency room, intensive care unit and other areas that work with Covid-19 patients. Poshabodes will donate 250 self-care kits to Aurora Sinai Medical Center. The company is also providing a second batch of 100 kits that can be purchased by the public for $50. They are available online at poshabodes.com/poshcares and are slated to be delivered on May 4.

The Jewish Community Foundation of the Milwaukee Jewish Federation announced plans to distribute $250,000 in donor-advised grants to address urgent needs related to Covid-19 in both the Jewish and broader communities. The funds are in addition to $175,000 already distributed through the Foundation since the crisis began. In total, grants will be awarded to 35 local nonprofits.

The Wisconsin Veterans Chamber of Commerce has raised an additional $10,000 for the COVID-19 Relief Fund for Wisconsin Veteran Service Organizations, hitting the mark for an additional $10,000 donation, pledged by an anonymous donor as a matching fund. The relief fund was announced by Lift for the 22 and the Wisconsin Veterans Chamber of Commerce to raise money for Wisconsin Veteran Service Organizations. All proceeds generated from the COVID-19 Relief Fund will be directed to nonprofit social services providing housing, health and wellness, and economic empowerment services to veterans, service members and their families.

Takeout COVID has been established to assist Milwaukee-area restaurants and bars that can no longer seat patrons due to the coronavirus pandemic. Takeout COVID is a website that lists Milwaukee restaurants and bars that are offering food, wine, beer and cocktails for takeout and delivery. more than 600 restaurants and bars have registered on the site. Learn more here.

The Green Bay Packers Give Back COVID-19 Community Relief Fund has awarded a $15,000 grant to support Ascension Columbia St. Mary’s Community Services for people who are vulnerable in Milwaukee. The grant will support urgent health care for people struggling with homeless issues at Ascension St. Ben’s Clinic and help increase service at Ascension Ebenezer Health Resource Center, supporting emergency food, personal protective equipment to keep caregivers safe from infection, and transportation for clients in need.

In efforts to further assist frontline workers in the fight against COVID-19, Foxconn Technology Group has donated 100,000 procedural masks assembled in Mt. Pleasant to the state of Wisconsin. According to a Foxconn executive, “We will continue to produce tens of thousands of procedural masks for general use by medical professionals, law enforcement, pharmacists and caregivers while expanding our efforts toward other ways to help.”

Women’s professional association Professional Dimensions in Milwaukee expedited a $50,000 grant from its Charitable Fund to the YWCA of Southeastern Wisconsin to support its response to the local challenges of Covid-19. The organization said it made the decision to award the funds knowing that the pandemic has devastated women and communities of color in Wisconsin and across the nation.

In response to the ongoing Covid-19 crisis, Milwaukee-area businesses have joined together in a campaign to help them remain open and offer essential products and services to the community – #OpenforBusiness. The initiative uses digital billboards throughout the region – donated by local media partner Clear Channel Outdoor – to highlight many of Milwaukee’s familiar stores and brands including Kwik Trip, Sendik’s, Cousin’s Subs, A&W Franksville and Taco John’s.

The ad campaigns will run for at least four weeks across Milwaukee and are designed to reiterate that essential businesses including restaurants, hospitals, grocery and hardware stores, and pharmacies, many of which are small businesses, are at the heart of driving Milwaukee’s economy, and are up and running.

The Zilber Family Foundation is allocating $3 million in emergency funding to address the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. The funds will support organizations in Milwaukee, where the foundation invests the majority of its resources, as well as in Hawaii, where it makes more targeted grants. The new grants will support general operating expenses for the foundation’s current grantees and immediate response efforts to meet the urgent needs of those adversely affected by the pandemic. Interested organizations can find the application, including eligibility and funding requirements, at zilberfamilyfoundation.org.

Miller High Life, with extensive operations in Milwaukee, is running a contest for couples whose weddings have been disrupted by the coronavirus, according to details MillerCoors recently shared with Marketing Dive. The company is offering three engaged couples the chance to win a “Wedding at Your Doorstep.” The prize includes an officiant, photographer and beer, as well as $10,000 toward a future honeymoon and canceled wedding costs. Couples can enter by writing a short statement (150 words or less) explaining how their wedding plans for 2020 changed due to the pandemic, as well as how they still plan to celebrate with Miller High Life. Contestants can email their responses and a photo to marryme@millerhighlife.com to enter.

Sojourner, the largest provider of domestic violence prevention and intervention services in Wisconsin, is sharing safety resources amid the Covid-19 pandemic. The Milwaukee organization has released a new public service announcement video to raise awareness about domestic violence. The group also provides safety bulletins available on its website. In 2019, Sojourner served more than 11,800 domestic violence survivors and provided more than 15,000 nights of emergency shelter. For more information, visit the Sojourner website here, or contact their hotline at 414-933-2722.

The Corners of Brookfield has launched its Caring for Caregivers program, a community initiative to support local health care workers at neighboring hospitals by providing them with free meals from Town Center restaurant tenants BelAir Cantina, Goddess and The Baker, and FreshFin Poke. To kick off the program, The Corners will donate 750 free meals to employees at ProHealth Waukesha, Oconomowoc Memorial Hospital and Ascension South East Wisconsin Hospital Elmbrook Campus. Starting May 1, the public is invited to donate a $10 meal through the participating restaurant tenants’ websites and The Corners will match up to $7,500 in meal donations each week throughout May. See BelAir Cantina here. Goddess and The Baker here. And FreshFin Poke here.

Bader Philanthropies Inc. in Milwaukee has provided a $100,000 grant to the IMPACT 211 Crisis Contact Center that will allow the center to add staff to serve more people as crisis center calls have doubled during the Covid-19 pandemic. This IMPACT grant is a part of a larger effort by Bader Philanthropies to quickly help southeastern Wisconsin organizations continue to provide services on the ground in response to the pandemic. Bader Philanthropies has funded 35 local organizations for a total of more than $1 million to date.


Since Fiserv Forum began serving as a coordination site for non-surgical face mask assembly kits on April 25, nearly 500,000 face coverings are in the process of being assembled. The goal is to make and distribute 2.5 million face coverings for the medical and nonprofit community as part of the local initiative MaskUpMKE.

MaskUpMKE is seeking more volunteers to assemble the kits. Individuals must visit United Way’s MaskUpMKE site to sign up for a volunteer shift and schedule a time to drive to the Fiserv Forum loading dock to pick up a box of face covering kits to take home for assembly. (No face covering kits will be distributed to anyone who has not registered in advance.) Kits contain instructions and materials to make 700 face coverings. Each face covering takes approximately one to two minutes to assemble. Volunteers will return their boxes to Fiserv Forum upon completion. Visit here for more information on MaskUpMKE.

To submit requests for face coverings, medical and nonprofit organizations should visit here. Also, individuals looking for masks or face coverings who do not belong to medical and nonprofit organizations should call 2-1-1 for more information.


During these unsettling times of the coronavirus pandemic, the United States Army is recognizing members of our communities who go above and beyond by serving their community in creative and compelling ways. The U.S. Army is sponsoring the “Answer the Call” campaign to recognize individuals who have showcased extraordinary action in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Individuals are encouraged to nominate those who rise up to “Answer the Call.” The community then votes on those nominated with the top choice provided a donation for the continuation of their efforts.

Nominations can be submitted here beginning May 4. Online voting will then take place to select the Army’s “Answer the Call” honor recipient. Follow the campaign on Facebook (@GreatAmericanRivalry), Instagram (@americanrivalry), and Twitter(@americanrivalry) to nominate and vote for your “Answer the Call” candidate.


The Greater Milwaukee Foundation has received a $1 million grant to its MKE Responds Fund from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation as part of the national philanthropy’s $50 million effort to provide humanitarian aid to help some of the families and communities feeling the greatest strain under the Covid-19 health emergency.

GMF organized and is helping lead a cross-sector coalition to strategically, equitably and rapidly respond to the Covid-19 outbreak in the region. The MKE Civic Response Team is developing new systems to identify greatest needs, align resources and coordinate relief efforts around the critical and intersecting priorities of food, housing/shelter, physical health, mental health, early childhood education and K-12 schools to ensure greater Milwaukee’s economic recovery and overall well-being.

Including the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation grant, the fund has now received more than $3.2 million in gifts and commitments. To date, the fund has made more than $850,000 in grants to community organizations.


Liberty Mutual and Safeco Insurance have announced a $10,000 donation to Sojourner Family Peace Center – nominated by Nicholas Starr of The Starr Group – as part of an Emergency Community Support Grant to help independent insurance agents give back to their local community during the Covid-19 crisis. The donation will go directly to Sojourner Family Peace Center, a Milwaukee nonprofit dedicated to ensuring the safety of victims of family violence and providing a pathway out of violence for victims and abusers through opportunities to make positive and lasting changes for themselves and their children.

The $10,000 donation will assist Sojourner Family Peace Center in addressing the needs of domestic violence survivors and their families that will increase with the continuing pandemic. Sojourner will continue to provide emergency crisis services such as safety planning, emergency shelter, advocacy and support services with an increased attention to cleaning and sanitization to safeguard clients and staff from Covid-19.


In just the first few weeks, more than 2,000 cards and letters have been received as part of Kapco’s Hero Mail Call. About half of the letters are being distributed to health care heroes and the balance are given to senior citizens who have been isolated as a result of the pandemic. So far, cards and letters have been sent in from people throughout Wisconsin and a number of other states. They have been distributed to hundreds of senior citizens including the residents of Village Pointe Commons in Grafton, which suffered devastating losses due to Covid-19. Advocate Aurora has also distributed Hero Mail Call letters and cards to its health care employees.

Kapco, of Grafton, encourages people to create cards or letters for the Hero Mail Call. Dozens of nursing home, senior communities and medical institutions have requested letters so thousands of additional letters are required to meet the need. Letters can be mailed to

Kapco’s Hero Mail, P.O. Box 1170, Grafton, WI, 53024 or emailed to heromailcall@gmail.com


Gov. Tony Evers recently announced Wisconsin received a donation of 10,000 procedural masks and 1,000 medical outfits from its sister state of Heilongjiang Province to help grow its supply of personal protective equipment (PPE). The state of Wisconsin has had a sister state relationship with Heilongjiang Province, located in northeast China, since 1982.

The shipment from Heilongjiang is the latest in a series of PPE donations Wisconsin has received to support its Covid-19 response. Organizations that include the Wisconsin Dental Association, WEC Energy Group, Kohler, Snap-on Tools, Northern States Power Co., ND Paper, the Wisconsin Humane Society and Foxconn have donated equipment such as masks, gloves, face shields and gowns toward the state supply of PPE.