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One woman, armed with a bullhorn, fights COVID-19 in Milwaukee's Metcalfe neighborhood

McCurtis and a volunteer bring care packages to families Photo credit: Dan Herda, United Way
Posted at 6:02 PM, Jun 05, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-08 15:23:46-04

Every other week, Melody McCurtis and volunteers with Metcalfe Park Community Bridges drive to the same spot -- Milwaukee's Metcalfe neighborhood, on the north side of the city.

Melody McCurtis visiting Metcalfe neighborhood. Photo credit: Dan Herda, United Way

They start to unload boxes filled with food, household supplies, and school curriculum packets out of a large white cargo van.

We noticed volunteers had boxes loaded up in the back seats of their cars. The van didn't fit all of the donated supplies.

Volunteer unloads boxes from cargo van. Photo credit: Dan Herda, United Way

The team wears face masks and gloves but McCurtis is the only one with an accessory. She proudly carries a white bullhorn. She peels back her mask and announces her arrival.

McCurtis asks neighbors what they need. Photo credit: Dan Herda, United Way

"Hey! How you doing? We're just dropping off some more packages," she says into the megaphone to a neighbor opening her front door, still wearing her pajamas.

Then it's onto another home next door. It's just after noon on a Friday.

Volunteers with Metcalfe Park Community Bridges Photo credit: Dan Herda, United Way

A man is mowing the lawn. There's a dog that won't stop barking. Those are the only sounds in this neighborhood. All of the kids are inside. It's a nice day.

This is a community overwhelmed with financial pain because of COVID-19. Job loss, furloughs, and sickness have flooded these streets.

Volunteers join Melody McCurtis to plan out door-to-door delivery of care packages Photo credit: Dan Herda, United Way

"They're not making minimum wage already and now they don't have school," says McCurtis passionately.

She stops only briefly to tell us. She wants to keep moving so she doesn't miss a house.

Melody McCurtis with Metcalfe Park Community Bridges Photo credit: Dan Herda, United Way

"You good? she asks an elderly woman who looks down from her balcony porch. She nods.

"Alright, see you later!" says McCurtis.

Another family steps outside to see McCurtis.

"It's your neighbors! We're back!" she happily proclaims. Her familiar voice echoes. Neighbors have gotten to know her well.

Volunteers work with McCurtis delivering care packages. Photo credit: Dan Herda, United Way

"We put some household items in there too!" she announces to another neighbor on the front steps.

"You need a curriculum for the kids?" she asks the woman. What grade?" she asks. Then tells a volunteer to get the mom a grade-appropriate learning packet.

"We're just helping our neighbors out. One door at a time. One family at a time," McCurtis says.

McCurtis and a volunteer bring care packages to families Photo credit: Dan Herda, United Way

"They're dealing with trying to pay rent, trying to pay a mortgage, trying to feed their family, and trying to be teachers at the same time."

"It's a great help. I'm homeschooling my grandkids and it's a challenge," Priscilla Morgan says, who is teaching four children under the age of ten.

Priscilla Morgan poses for a photo after receiving food and supplies. Photo credit: Dan Herda, United Way

"I thank everybody," Morgan says.

"I have teenagers and they eat me out of house and home and it keeps me from having to run to the store," says mom Felicia Wilkins.

"Thank you, baby," Wilkins says to a teenage volunteer handing her a box.

Staying home and social distancing is surviving.

"Especially our neighborhood where the virus has hit harder," says Wilkins.

"I know everything is opening back up but COVID-19 is still here," says McCurtis.

She doesn't want families in this neighborhood to feel forgotten.

They won't be.

Melody McCurtis instructing volunteers during a neighborhood visit Photo Credit: Dan Herda, United Way

"We'll be coming back out at the end of June," McCurtis yells into her bullhorn.

The partners involved in this door-to-door delivery campaign include: Northwestern Mutual, United Way, Wisconsin Voices, The McGinnity Family Foundation, Greater Milwaukee Foundation, Zilber Family Foundation, The Black Box Fund, Arts @ Large, ImagineMKE, Rebel Face Mask, Jewish Community Pantry, Courage MKE, BMO Harris Bank and individual donors.

Here's how you can help. You can join the team and volunteer to deliver the care packages or you can donate to the Metcalfe Park Community Bridges.

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