Release Date: January 26,2021

GAR Awards $200,000 to Know COVID Program

AKRON, OH (Jan. 26, 2021) — GAR Foundation has dedicated $200,000 to the creation of the Know COVID program. This effort is designed to connect Akron’s healthcare system with trusted neighborhood organizations to develop culturally competent, credible COVID-19- and vaccine-related information and deliver that information to the Black community.

As the U.S. surpasses 25.2 million COVID-19 cases and Ohio approaches the one-year anniversary of its initial stay-at-home order, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on all of our lives. And yet, mirroring the national trend, the impact has been even more severe among Akron's Black and Brown communities. Akron’s communities of color have seen higher rates of infection and hospitalization, and higher rates of job losses. Plus, minority-owned businesses have fared worse than their white counterparts.

While there are many reasons behind these patterns, the long-standing racial inequities that permeate our society play a central role. The path out of the pandemic is fraught by this same history of inequity; many Black citizens mistrust health institutions due to patterns of racism in the healthcare system. In order for the Black community to benefit from COVID-19 resources, including the vaccine, this trust chasm must be bridged.

“We have two goals in creating the Know COVID program: 1) to connect the Black community to needed COVID-19 resources and 2) to support the long process of repairing trust in our healthcare system. We are encouraged that neighborhood organizations and the healthcare systems have stepped forward with enthusiasm and energy to advance these goals,” said Christine Amer Mayer, president of GAR Foundation.

GAR Foundation is partnering with the following seven neighborhood organizations and the two major adult healthcare systems:

  • Akron Urban League: The Akron Urban League will distribute personal protective equipment (PPE) during predetermined dates and times each month.
  • LINKS Community Services: LINKS Community Services will track needs in the Middlebury community and refer residents to resources. It will also act as a pick-up location for PPE.
  • North Akron CDC: North Akron CDC will distribute messaging and COVID-19 kits to Black and new American communities in North Hill. 
  • Project Ujima: Project Ujima will act as a resource center for the West Akron neighborhood.
  • South Street Ministries: South Street Ministries and Summit Lake CDC will canvass the South Akron and Summit Lake neighborhoods monthly to distribute COVID kits and information.
  • Love Akron: Love Akron will train community and faith leaders in mental health awareness through the organization’s mental health and wellness initiatives.
  • ArtsNow: ArtsNow will work with GAR Foundation and neighborhood organizations to select a Black artist(s) to translate COVID-19- or vaccine-related information into an artistic medium.
  • Cleveland Clinic Akron General and Summa Health System will work directly with the neighborhood organizations to develop the COVID-19- and vaccine-related information and to produce COVID-19 kits for the neighborhoods. In addition, both hospital systems will host virtual information sessions for community members.

Each neighborhood organization is approaching this work in ways that best fit its particular neighborhood. GAR Foundation’s goal is to help get resources into the hands of those who need them while also bridging the gap between the neighborhoods and our health systems in an authentic way.

“We know that our investment will not solve the long-standing systemic inequities, but we believe that this is a small step in the right direction to combat misinformation and build trust between the health systems and the communities they serve,” said Bronlynn Thurman, program officer at GAR Foundation.

In Dec. 2020, GAR Foundation awarded a total of $200,000 to the organizations listed above. The program will run from Jan. 2021 through June 2021, with distribution beginning in Feb. 2021. 

For more information, contact Bronlynn Thurman at bthurman@garfdn.org.