In July 2020, as part of a multi-city, $26 million grant awarded by The Audacious Project, the Harlem Children’s Zone (HCZ) granted $2.67 million to Purpose Built Communities for its three Atlanta Network Members: East Lake Foundation, Grove Park Foundation and Focused Community Strategies to support COVID-19 relief and recovery efforts in Atlanta.

This group of community quarterbacks, independent nonprofit organizations solely dedicated to the ongoing revitalization of a defined neighborhood, collaborated and deployed funds through five lenses of need:

  • Protecting the most vulnerable
  • Bridging the digital divide
  • Preventing learning loss
  • Mitigating the mental health crisis
  • Providing emergency financial relief

Purpose Built Network Members are deeply engaged within their neighborhoods and are among those closest to the challenges to help identify solutions. Their place-based leadership was essential to mobilize resources quickly and get relief efforts underway.

HCZ’s goal in granting the dollars was clear: minimize the negative impacts of COVID-19 on Black people and Black communities. Over the past year, the funding has enabled Purpose Built and its Atlanta Network Members along with numerous partners to provide communities in need with various services and assistance.

“Every day in our school, over 70 students log onto a Chromebook to participate in the new blend of virtual, digital and traditional learning. Your recent gift of Chromebooks is a vital tool to our students. It allows them to connect with teachers in Missouri to learn a way to solve quadratic equations, or view the pyramids and learn about the great Pharaohs, or observe the dissection of a fetal pig and participate along in real-time. That is the power of technology. Because of your gift, our students will be ahead of the digital divide, for which we are most grateful.”

-Philip Ross, Executive Director, Bright Futures Atlanta

#StayCoveredTogether Campaign Drove Awareness to COVID-19 Safety Protocols

Grant funds also supported the Atlanta-area organizations’ participation in the #StayCoveredTogether campaign, developed by the HCZ, to drive awareness about the importance of wearing masks, staying safe, and preventing the spread of coronavirus. Local initiatives included a robust social media campaign, billboards, a mural designed by a local artist, and a digital toolkit.

Fact sheet included in the digital toolkit.

The quick and widespread distribution of funding and resources was largely due to Network Members’ existing relationships with the community. Residents knew and trusted these organizations because they have been an established presence in their neighborhood, sometimes for decades. Their staff members live in the neighborhood and are inherently connected to the stories and the struggles of residents and can come to them as a neighbor and a friend. Leaders in these community quarterback organizations have their ears to the ground, giving them the knowledge to be able to respond to urgent needs, while always thinking long-term and across all those elements of healthy, thriving neighborhoods.

“The Harlem Children’s Zone significantly increased our capacity to get funds and resources into neighborhoods hit hard by COVID-19, but almost as importantly, they gave us and our [Atlanta] Network Members the flexibility to use those resources in ways that we knew would make the biggest impact,” said Carol Naughton, CEO, Purpose Built Communities. “Our ability to get funds directly into the hands of people who needed it provided immediate relief and stability, which we believe will allow these neighborhoods to emerge more resilient and healthier.”

Additionally, the funds were matched by a local campaign that raised an additional $2.98 million to support COVID-19 relief efforts, thus bolstering the overall impact of the original grant. The HCZ grant has inspired the Atlanta Network Members to work together in new ways, including exploring opportunities to share staff, collaborate on initiatives, and fundraise together.

“The Harlem Children’s Zone’s leadership, funding, and collaborative spirit provided relief for thousands of Black families in Atlanta and created an emerging learning community that will continue to work together in the future,” said Naughton. “We are honored to have been a part of this innovative work and partnership.”