State provides $200,000 grant for New Level Sports to distribute PPE kits in Washington Heights – Battle Creek Enquirer

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PPE kits will be distributed at New Level Sports in Battle Creek on Saturday, Nov. 21 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

New Level Sports Ministries received a $200,000 grant from the Michigan Cornoavirus Task Force on Racial Disparities to distribute PPE kits in Battle Creek’s Washington Heights neighborhood. 

The kits, which contain disposable masks, gloves, disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizer, will be distributed on Saturday, Nov. 21 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the New Level Sports football field, along with an estimated 40,000 pounds of food donated earlier this week by The Black 14 Philanthropy and Latter-day Saint Charities. 

The project was one of 30 in the state to be funded by the state task force’s Rapid Response Initiative. 

The distribution is part of the Healthy Battle Creek campaign organized by New Level Sports Ministries, in partnership with other community groups, to provide health information and address health disparities in the Washington Heights neighborhood. 

“Coronavirus has devastated the Black community because of underlying health conditions that were already there,” Pastor Chris McCoy, executive director of New Level Sports Ministries said. “It’s exciting that we’re able to actually kind of step in the gap and be able to serve our own people.” 

Pastor Chris McCoy of New Level Sports

The PPE was provided by STEWART Industries, a Battle Creek Black-owned manufacturing business. 

“The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately impacted communities of color in Michigan,” Erick Stewart, president of STEWART Industries said. “Our community is literally dying due to lack of resources and access to care.” 

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer created the racial disparities task force earlier this year to study the causes of COVID-19 racial disparities and recommend actions to address inequalities in the state. 

Black people make up 14% of Michigan’s total population, but 32% of COVID-19 deaths, according to state data. In deaths per million people by race, the data shows that Black people are dying from the virus more often than any other racial group in the state at a rate of 3:1. That’s when compared to the next highest death rate, which is among white people who make up close to 80% of the state’s population.

COVID-19 cases per million people also show racial disparity, especially among Black people. 

Black Michigan residents have a case rate of 24,306 per million, compared to 19,900 among white Michigan residents, according to state data. Michigan residents who identify as American Indian and Native Alaskan have a case rate of 15,394 per million and Asian Michigan residents have a case rate of 12,592.

In Calhoun County, where Black people make up around 11% of the population, 10.7% of confirmed COVID-19 cases and 13.5% of deaths have been among Black people. 

Washington Heights is a predominately Black neighborhood, and many residents have limited access to quality PPE, McCoy said. People in the neighborhood have struggled with unemployment and lack of access to healthcare during the pandemic. 

Pastor Alfonzo Bryant, Pastor Christopher McCoy and Freddie McGee coordinate food donations on Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2020 at New Level Sports Ministries in Battle Creek, Mich. Tony McGee, a Battle Creek Central grad who played in two Super Bowls, and his Black 14 crew are sending 40,000 pounds of food to each other their hometowns.

“When the coronavirus hit, it even highlighted more how Black people are not at the level yet where they can prosper like other parts of the community,” McCoy said. 

The Healthy Battle Creek campaign is targeted at addressing those disparities. 

“We’re talking about healthy food. We’re talking about homes. We’re talking about transportation. All of these things create a healthy community,” McCoy said. 

New Level Sports Ministries is also partnering with Voces and the Burma Center to help provide health information targeted for this Hispanic and Burmese communities in Battle Creek. Health information will be available in Spanish and Burmese at New Level Sports on Saturday. 

Distribution will take place at 400 Michigan Ave. West. The event will be drive-thru and anyone picking up a kit is asked to wear a mask and to socially distance.

The event on Saturday is the first distribution of PPE at New Level Sports, but McCoy said he plans to have more health events in the future. 

He said that he hopes that the community will reimagine health care coming out of COVID-19 and work to address the factors that create poor health among people of color. 

“If it goes back to normal, do we just ignore it again and just go about what we’ve been doing?” he said. “I believe that it’s more than focus on this now. It’s a multifaced-type piece that we need to be looking at.”  

Contact Elena Durnbaugh at (269) 243-5938 or edurnbaugh@battlecreekenquirer.com. Follow her on Twitter  at @ElenaDurnbaugh. 

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