Many hands make light work 

A new program, made possible by federal CARES Act funding, is training, employing and deploying more than 100 individuals as Community Resource Navigators (CRNs) to aid in addressing the needs of the community. The program is being hosted by Employ Milwaukee in partnership with the City of Milwaukee, Milwaukee's Community Development Grants Administration, and Wisconsin Regional Training Partnership/Building Industry Group & Skilled Trades Employment Program  ̶  WRTP | BIG STEP. 

Chytania Brown, President & CEO of Employ Milwaukee, calls the program a humanitarian effort (saving lives, alleviating suffering and maintaining human dignity) for the community and not a replacement to people’s jobs. “We’re providing the extra hands to help in the areas that need additional assistance around this time of the pandemic,” Brown said.  

Collaboration works 

Employ Milwaukee has seen an overwhelming amount of positive outpouring and support for the program. Through the end of July, Brown said they had received over 750 applications, without any formal public relations. The collaborative effort of the MKE Civic Response Team has helped to facilitate these connections among partners, prospective work sites and potential applicants for the program. 

“There’s certain areas where you need to have the right contacts in order to reach individuals,” said Brown. “I praise the workgroups because of our ability to reach out to some of these pocketed areas.” 

Due to the high demand, Milwaukee County has approved added resources for Employ Milwaukee to expand the program to an additional 200-300 navigators to work among community and neighborhood organizations, churches, shelters, isolation facilities and others. At these locations, navigators will perform such functions as distributing public health information, aiding in contact tracing, connecting residents with mental health resources, assisting in accessing benefits such as unemployment and more.

Reaching back 

As human service needs continue to increase, one Community Resource Navigator, Sue Junck, understands how critical her role is to the community. After working in the customer service industry for 26 years, Junck found herself unemployed in 2017, taking temporary jobs for only months at a time. When she came across the position, she was excited to learn that it was an opportunity to be part of humanitarian work and give back to the community. 

“I take my title very seriously,” Junck said. “Being a Community Resource Navigator means getting as much help as I can from the community to help as many people as I can in the community. It’s a give and take.”

Junck works at Morris Cathedral Life Center where they provide hot meals every third week of the month and a food bank from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Monday through Friday. The hot food meal program doesn’t hold back, offering meals like homemade lasagna with salad, chicken stir fry with Hawaiian rolls, salmon croquettes with mixed vegetables and corn bread. Junck also shared that her work has included prep work to get the building ready with new walls, new flooring and painting the pantry room. She also made signs for the food bank and hot food program in her first week, which they started putting out last week to draw in visitors.

“It’s so good to help people and be a part of something like this,” said Junck. 

Beyond the pandemic 

In her leadership role with Employ Milwaukee, Brown looks at the positive side of the pandemic: “If the pandemic wasn’t at play, some of these relationships I wouldn’t have built so soon. My hope is that we continue to work together, not just in a crisis, but solve the systemic and economic challenges that we’re facing, especially with underrepresented populations.”

If you are interested in joining the program, applications are open for both job seekers and host site employers. For more information on CRNs, email or call 414-270-7575.


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