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'Know COVID' program providing resources to Akron's Black community

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Posted at 12:22 PM, Jan 27, 2021

AKRON, Ohio — A new program is focusing on the timely delivery of resources to Akron's Black community amid the pandemic.

GAR Foundation has dedicated $200,000 to create the Know COVID program.

The effort is designed to connect Akron's healthcare system with trusted neighborhood organizations to develop culturally competent, credible COVID-19 and vaccine-related information that can be passed along to those in the African American community.

Christine Mayer, president of GAR Foundation, stressed that the pandemic has had a more severe impact on Akron's Black and brown communities, seeing higher rates of infection, hospitalizations and job losses.

"This particular program is very intentional and focused on Akron's black community," Mayer said. "This is one step. This is one right thing we can do now to try to make sure that our black community is getting the information, the resources that will help us get past COVID."

The foundation is teaming up with seven neighborhood organizations: Akron Urban League, LINKS Community Servcies, North Akron CDC, Project Ujima, South Street Ministries, Love Akron and ArtsNow.

The organizations will assist in a variety of ways, including distributing personal protective equipment (COVID-19 kits), serving as resource centers, canvassing neighborhoods with information about PPE and vaccines, training community and faith leaders in mental health awareness, and selecting a black artist 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 information and produce COVID-19 kits for the neighborhoods.

"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 community they serve," said Bronlynn Thomas, program officers at GAR Foundation.

Teresa LeGrair, president of Akron Urban League, said the agency will serve as a distribution site, and in some cases, will deliver items to people in the neighborhood.

"As long at there are people in need, it's not too late because there's somebody within a five-mile walk from here that's in need of something," LeGrair said. "COVID has wreaked havoc on a lot of communities."

LeGrair said the pandemic has only exacerbated long-standing racial and health inequities.

"The pandemic didn't create disparities in the black community. They already existed," she said.

The rollout of the program is scheduled for February.