We asked Allison Sharkey, executive director of Minneapolis’ Lake Street Council, how her organization has responded in the aftermath of civil unrest following the murder of George Floyd. Over two evenings, an estimated 250 Lake Street corridor businesses were damaged and 33 destroyed, many of which belonged to low-income entrepreneurs, individuals who are Black, Indigenous or People of Color, by immigrant business owners and by others who have overcome tremendous difficulties to support their families and communities. Tunheim is proud to be a pro-bono partner of Lake Street Council providing communications and social media support. Lake Street Council believes that Black Lives Matter and joins its neighbors and fellow Minnesotans to support the change that addresses racial inequities and social justice.
Executive director of Minneapolis’ Lake Street Council, Allison Sharkey
What is Lake Street Council’s role? How have your priorities changed since the recent events this past month?
We’re a nonprofit that’s here to ensure the economic vitality and prosperity of this very special community and the businesses and organizations along Lake Street from Lake Bde Mka Ska to the Mississippi River. We work to uplift the existing business community while raising awareness among potential shoppers and new business investors.
As a result of the events of late May and early June, our priorities have shifted dramatically to helping our great community quickly recover as much as possible. This was a tremendous blow, coming on the heels of COVID-19 restrictions which had already put many businesses at risk. We’re trying to provide them with as much support as we can. While some had insurance, many were underinsured or lacked money to pay their deductibles.
You had a very successful crowdfunding campaign. How much have you raised?
We launched an online campaign thinking we might raise a couple hundred thousand dollars for business that were recently damaged in our community. We’re now at more than $6.2 million from over 62,000 individual donors – generous people not only from the Twin Cities, but across the country and around the world. More than 30 companies and organizations also contributed. In addition, we’ve had a tremendous outpouring of volunteers who’ve helped with cleanup and other needs.
How will that money get to businesses and organizations in need?
Last week we announced plans for a first round of up to $3 million in grants from our We Love Lake Street Recovery Fund. This is an initial rapid-response investment to help our Lake Street businesses and nonprofits start to move forward. Eligible businesses and nonprofit organizations can apply for grants of up to $25,000, with average grants of $10,000. While $3 million seems like a lot of money, given the tremendous need, our priorities for the include extent of damage, lack of or minimal insurance coverage; small businesses, independently owned businesses, locally owned businesses and nonprofits that serve the community.
We’ve brought in an oversight committee of local leaders with strong ties to Lake Street’s diverse business committee to review the applications and hope the first grants will be in applicants’ hands in about 10 days. After this first round, the oversight committee will identify additional priorities for subsequent grants. Lake Street Council will work to address the corridor’s broader economic needs through additional partnerships and fundraising.
What role has communication played over the last few weeks?
The communication demand has been pretty intense for our small Lake Street Council team. I think it would be hard for any organization to fully prepare for what we’ve been through. We lost our own office during this time. We needed to prioritize communication to local businesses and plan for Lake Street’s recovery. The help we got from Tunheim allowed us to respond to nearly six dozen media requests – every one of our Twin Cities outlets, national newspapers and networks, and even the BBC – with consistent messages.
Can you share your vision for Lake Street’s future?
The Lake Street community has an enormous challenge ahead, but we are optimistic and excited about the future. We believe Lake Street will always be a home for immigrant and minority-owned businesses, as well as a place where people can come to start a business, experience the vitality of life and be embraced by a warm and welcoming community. We are committed to the principals of greater equity, diversity and inclusion in our culturally rich and caring community.