CLEVELAND — It’s such a small thing that could make a huge impact.
"How can we begin to think about ways that our community can have access to at least masks,” said Erika Anthony, a co-founder of Cleveland Votes, a non-partisan organization that helps marginalized communities get out the vote. Now, her organization and a couple others are helping those same folks stay safe.
"We know systemic racism exists in America and has for quite some time, so coming into this pandemic ,we know that black and brown and other marginalized, disenfranchised communities are at a disadvantage,” said Anthony.
She says they’re making kits to giveaway that include a re-usuable mask, information on how protect yourself, a coloring page for kids and reminders about this year's election and census.
"They’re at a disadvantage as it relates to access to healthcare, access to real-time information,” said Anthony.
After some funding from the St. Luke's Foundation, Cleveland Votes was able to pay for 8,000 kits which will be distributed to folks on the southeast side of Cleveland.
Most recently, they got a much larger grant from the COVID-19 Rapid Response Fund. With that money, they’ll be able to make 25,000 kits for folks in Cleveland and East Cleveland. All this grant money will stay in the community.
"Many organizations, many companies were not necessarily in the mask game before the crisis, so their production rate is not as high as a large manufacturer,” said Anthony. "Really trying to elevate local businesses, knowing that obviously many local businesses have been impacted by this crisis.”
They hope to tap into other essential businesses to help distribute the kits.
"You all are doing food distribution on this day and that day, can we give you 500 that in addition to giving out the food you can give these kits out,” she said.
Among the under served folks, they will be targeting is the LGBTQ community.
Volunteers will start assembling the kits soon at the Third Space Action Lab in Glenville, with a distribution target date of June 1.
All of these organizations are coming together with a goal to raise enough money to distribute 60,000 kits. If you’d like help them reach that mark, including sewing masks, click here.