By Dr. Vanessa Allen-McCloud, President & Chief Executive Officer
Urban League of Northwest Indiana, Inc.
REVIEW, REVISE, AND RENEW are just a few of the words many of us are using in our current vocabulary as we begin to re-evaluate ways to reopen our businesses.
Mid-March of 2020, the COVID-19 global pandemic immediately began to adversely impact the Urban League of Northwest Indiana (ULOFNWI). Along with so many other businesses, the Urban League services were drastically impacted. As a result, the COVID-19 crisis drastically limited the ability to impact the public as national and state authorities advised individuals to stay at home – shelter in place and practice social distancing – so our office temporarily closed, per the direction of our Governor and Mayor.
The Urban League’s daily operational model is face-to-face referrals, distributions, meetings, career and college workshops for middle and high school students, scholarship opportunities for high school graduating seniors, volunteer income tax assistance (VITA), diversity & inclusion professional development workshops, and fundraising. However, like so many other non-profits and small businesses, we are now in the REVIEW stage, which means we are reviewing services and office operations to maintain safety precautions for staff and customers.
Our office is now open on a limited basis, by appointments only, so that the VITA team can help those “Non-Filers” who did not file taxes in 2018 or 2019, and who make $12,000 or less. With assistance, these people will ultimately receive their stimulus check. Additionally, the VITA team has revised its schedule while working to process previously scheduled tax appointments.
The College and Career Readiness team has revised its in-classroom curriculum to incorporate virtual class presentations to students utilizing Zoom and other social media outlets allowing middle and high school students the opportunity to participate in quality workshops.
In previous years, the Urban League’s Scholastic Luncheon recognized approximately 300 students from Lake, Porter and LaPorte counties. This event would celebrate scholars with approximately $30,000 in scholarship awards to deserving students. The event has been rescheduled to late June. We will have check presentations to the scholarship winners and their parents for only 100 people or less.
Like so many other not-for-profit agencies, fundraising is critical to the financial stability of the organization. With limits on gathering and social distancing, we postponed the annual Diversity and Inclusion fund- raiser, which was scheduled for March 19, 2020, to September 24, 2020.
As a non-profit organization, whose service delivery model primarily refers, provides, and distributes community supports, the Urban League Office is cautiously reopening so we can provide assistance to local citizens in need of information, direction and referrals—whether it be financial, physical, or those suffering with mental anxiety (due to the pandemic and other personal challenges); however we have incorporated some restrictions. Those restrictions include entering the office with mask, gloves and stopping at the sanitizer station! Your temperature is taken, you must sanitize your hands at the hands-free sanitizer dispenser located on the wall, and answer a few questions such as: have you traveled internationally, have you been in contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19, and then you proceed to follow the social distancing markings on the floor.
Although this is a complicated time, the Urban League, along with many others, are working to every extent possible to begin a new way of providing services.
It is evident this health emergency may continue for some time and will continue to impact our staff, volunteers, and the individuals who rely on our programs and outreach services. Despite the negative impact of COVID-19 and the challenges it continues to present, the Urban League of Northwest Indiana will continue to serve, on a limited basis, the communities of Lake, Porter and LaPorte counties.
About Urban League of Northwest Indiana
For 75 years, the Urban League of Northwest Indiana’s mission has been to promote cultural diversity and economic opportunities in African American and minority communities. Fueling transformational change in Lake, Porter and La Porte counties, the Urban League has touched more than 3,000 children and youth annually through scholarships, college readiness, and developmental training programs. The Urban League also continues to make exceptional strides in providing a better quality of life for citizens across the Region. For more information, visit the website at www.ulofnwi.org or call 219.887.9621.å