COVID-19 Underserved Outreach
Outreach Effort Drives Support to Central Minnesota Communities Most Affected by Coronavirus Spread
The Initiative Foundation has kicked off a yearlong outreach to Central Minnesota communities that have been hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. The effort is making inroads for underserved workers and their neighbors, some of whom are new Americans who face obstacles where language and cultural barriers arise.
The three focus communities—Cold Spring, Long Prairie and Melrose—have long benefitted from quality jobs that the meat processing sector brings. However, they also are more likely to experience elevated infection rates associated with the nature of this work.
Supported by $160,000 from the Center for Disaster Philanthropy and its Midwest Early Recovery Fund, the grant is enabling partnerships with two Central Minnesota-serving organizations: the Central Minnesota Community Empowerment Organization (CMCEO) and the Latino Economic Development Center (LEDC). Each organization has hired a bilingual disaster relief coordinator to build bridges to social services and culturally appropriate resources that are vital during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Relief coordinators for this project are Mónica Segura-Schwartz and Shirwa Adan. They will collaborate with the Initiative Foundation to assess the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the health of workers, their families and their communities, and they will use these insights to implement a strategy to support individuals and families that have been adversely affected. The effort will include:
- Outreach to affected families, including referrals from school districts, congregations, employers and community organizations. Segura-Schwartz and Adan also are contacting households to assess their needs, which may include housing, access to food, medical treatment, transportation, child care, legal services or other basic needs. In the process, they will provide accurate and timely pandemic and safety information in a language that the community understands.
- Working with the Initiative Foundation’s Financial Resiliency program and its safety-planning initiative, the goal is to leverage and align existing resources to develop a strategic plan that identifies the most urgent needs and allows public agencies and the philanthropic community to allocate or seek additional support to help households impacted by COVID. Through the efforts of the relief coordinators, additional resources have already been raised.
“This is about human need and human service,” said Don Hickman, Initiative Foundation vice president for community and workforce development. “It’s compassionate work for a sector that has been extremely hard-hit by this pandemic.”
A native of Colombia, Segura-Schwartz has made her home in St. Cloud since 2001. She brings to this project more than 15 years of experience in the field of advocacy for equity, inclusion and leadership development in Central Minnesota with a focus on immigrant communities and communities of color. Through her latest work with Growth & Justice, Segura-Schwartz has focused on equity work and partnered in the development of “The Minnesota Equity Blueprint.” Since the completion of that project, Segura-Schwartz has developed an even deeper interest in rural advocacy and bridging the rural-urban divide. Segura-Schwartz serves on the St. Cloud School Board and previously worked with Catholic Charities. She also assisted the Initiative Foundation with case management in the aftermath of the 2017 Melrose downtown fire.
Adan will support culturally appropriate resources for East African meatpacking plant workers who have been adversely affected by COVID-19, including outreach to affected families through referrals from school districts, congregations, employers, social services and community organizations. “I also will be reaching out to employers as bridge-builder and to other Somali-led organization in the Greater St. Cloud area to coordinate efforts to support these families,” he said. “The need for coordination is extensive, and I am grateful to coordinate the efforts and be a resource to the workers and their families.” Adan is currently completing his graduate studies at St. Cloud State University in applied economics.