Nonprofit PPP loan recipient sees character shine through in tough moments – MACC Development, Detroit

The MACC in MACC Development stands for Mack Avenue Community Church. That’s because this community development organization was founded “to be the hands and feet of the church.” The organization works to revitalize Detroit’s 48214 zip code – block by block, neighbor by neighbor. IFF sat down with Pastor Leon Stevenson to learn more about how the organization is responding to COVID-19 and how the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) may help them through this moment in history.

 

 

IFF: How did COVID-19 and the related shutdowns affect your organization?

We got started by going door-to-door…with COVID, our ability to have that kind of connection changed dramatically.

Stevenson: COVID affected us in two primary ways. First, we’re very people-focused. Because so many of our church members live in the 48214, and because the majority of our staff and Board also live here, we got started by going door-to-door and talking to residents and hearing about the things they love about the community and the things they long for the community. With COVID, our ability to have that kind of connection changed dramatically. And because much of our community doesn’t have Internet access, it was very challenging to identify our neighbors’ developing needs and adjust our programming to serve them. What we produced was 48214 CARE, a mutual aid platform that links neighbors with various critical needs—food, housing, repairs—to service providers, nonprofit partners, and volunteers that can meet those needs.

The second way COVID affected us was with our café/laundromat, The Commons, a for-profit social enterprise owned by MACC Development. After just 14 months of being open, The Commons was just beginning to build some momentum. And if any business makes it through its first year, well, praise God! But then COVID hit, and we had to shut down The Commons temporarily. We have since re-opened and modified our services in response to the pandemic, which is a credit to the leadership of General Manager Grace Gray and her entire team.

 

IFF: Why did you decide to pursue a PPP loan, and how do you think it will help your agency?

Stevenson: PPP gave us at MACC Development the confidence we needed to support our staff team. We have enjoyed a considerable amount of continuity among our full-time staff team, and we need those people in order to adapt and change our programs so we can continue serving our community. Our ability to pivot and care for our community was really in large measure because of the support and guidance from IFF in applying for and receiving the PPP.

Also, from a strategic standpoint, the PPP allowed me some space to be thinking of other ways to apply for grants and partner with other organizations in Detroit. We needed to do all of that to make sure both our nonprofit and for-profit arms are able to operate again once restrictions are lifted. This isn’t just about us staying employed or staying in business; it’s about the services our organizations provide to the community. We have a laundromat, and having clean clothes is part of fighting this virus. We have a café, and having more food options in our community is important because people aren’t able to travel a lot right now.

This isn’t just about us staying employed or staying in business; it’s about the services our organizations provide to the community.

 

IFF: What was your experience like in getting the PPP loan?

Stevenson: We started with our primary bank. They were so overwhelmed that their website would shut down. Then they closed almost all of their local branch locations. I had no idea what to do next. Then, the Ballmer Philanthropy Group recommended we connect with IFF, and we reached out to you. Weeks later, after we had applied with IFF and everything was submitted, my bank emailed me and said: “We noticed you were trying to get on our website. We might be able to help you now.”

Honestly, getting approved was great. But even if we had been rejected, even if we hadn’t gotten the money, the help IFF provided during a time when the small organizations felt like no one else was giving guidance–that was a great blessing to us. We felt like we had people in our corner.

 

IFF: What’s one thing you’ve learned in this climate?

Stevenson: That the character of people shines through during the toughest of times. We have a guy that grabs our pick-up truck and takes boxes of food to people. The woman who runs our education programs worked with our volunteers to get everything online for kids to get the support they needed within a week of the shutdown. And on our small staff alone, we personally know six people who have died from COVID. We’ve cried with each other. We’ve encouraged each other. And we’ve continued to serve our community. I’m humbled by these amazing people.

On our small staff alone, we personally know six people who have died from COVID. We’ve cried with each other. We’ve encouraged each other. And we’ve continued to serve our community. I’m humbled by these amazing people.

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