Northwestern Mutual Foundation is donating $1.9 million to support 33 nonprofits and community-led efforts in the Amani, Metcalfe Park and Muskego Way neighborhoods, lifting its investment in Milwaukee communities to $28 million since 2013.
“We chose these areas because they were in need of the most help and nobody was stepping up,” said Eric Christophersen, president of Northwestern Mutual Foundation.
Northwestern Mutual’s approach is building upon the Building Neighborhood Capacity Program, established by the Obama Administration as part of its Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative.
The program was designed to help low-income neighborhoods access resources and build infrastructure to target areas such as education, employment, safety and housing. In Milwaukee, it began in eight neighborhoods in 2012, including the Amani and Metcalfe Park neighborhoods.
Denisha Tate-McAlister, interim executive director at Dominican Center, said the partnership with Northwestern Mutual helped them carry on the goals of the Building Neighborhood Capacity Program after its five years of assistance ended.
The Dominican Center, a recipient of the grant money, works directly with residents in the Amani neighborhoods to address systemic issues in the area.
“We come alongside as a partner to whatever it is the residents want to focus on,” said Tate-McAlister. “And their focus is based upon quality of life.”
The Amani neighborhood is located within Milwaukee’s 53206 ZIP code, where the poverty level in 2017 was about 42%. Tate-McAlister said her organization works with residents to help them access resources and connect with elected officials to make change.
Christophersen said working in tandem with residents of these neighborhoods is essential in achieving their goals.
“You can't just have a corporation write a big check and expect, you know, different outcomes,” Christophersen said. “You have to work with the residents. And if it's not a partnership, it's not money well spent, or money well invested. And that's why we've been successful to date.”