Collaboration is thriving on King Drive

Progress is accelerating in the ThriveOn Collaboration as new investments in people and place have taken shape in the opening months of 2021.

Located in the heart of the community and with the community at its heart, this transformational venture of the Greater Milwaukee Foundation, Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW) and Royal Capital Group is opening new doors to a more equitable, healthy and thriving Milwaukee. 

Designed to advance the community-informed priorities of economic opportunity, early childhood education, health & wellness, housing and social cohesion, the collaboration’s centerpiece is the physical redevelopment of the historic Gimbels-Schuster’s department store at 2153 N. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, north of downtown Milwaukee. 

Introducing ThriveOn King

In January, the lead organizations announced the building had been named ThriveOn King and that construction would commence this spring. Created through strong neighborhood input, the name honors the spirit of its special location between King Drive and Vel R. Phillips Avenue and pays reverence to the history and legacy of those who have brought pride and vibrancy to the community for generations. 

When complete, ThriveOn King will be the Foundation’s new home and additionally house community-facing programs of MCW and on the first floor, a range of community amenities. Royal Capital is also developing mixed income residential units as part of the overall project.

“Every step forward in this collaboration brings us closer to the community we serve, and we can’t wait for the day we open the doors to the Foundation’s new headquarters at ThriveOn King as true neighbors and partners,” said Ken Robertson, executive vice president, COO and CFO for the Foundation. “The Foundation’s strategic vision calls us to recenter communities, and our work here together is the perfect example of living that vision. This is a model collaboration that counteracts racism and disinvestment by representing community voices and advancing our collective, long-term commitment to systemic change.”

Unprecedented philanthropic movement

Complementing the incredible place that ThriveOn King will become are the incredible people who are bringing the collaboration to life. One such person is MCW health disparities researcher Leonard Egede, MD, MS, whose work is at the center of a bold investment led by African American philanthropists that will advance racial and health equity for years to come.

By spearheading a $2 million fundraising effort to support a Black scientific leader of national prominence, these community leaders have seized a generational opportunity to address the societal factors that impact health and to improve well-being in Milwaukee’s Black community and beyond. As a result of the investment, Dr. Egede has received an endowed chair appointment and will have access to a permanent funding source as he aims to close persisting health equity gaps in the community.

Many disparities in health and opportunity experienced by communities of color can be traced back to systemic racism, so overcoming barriers to quality health care and overall wellness requires a comprehensive, community-informed approach.

Dr. Egede explores access to healthcare, quality and cost of care and the social determinants of health and how they intersect to create disparities and influence the overall health of the region. These efforts directly inform and educate activities for the ThriveOn Collaboration.

Current Foundation Board Chair Jackie Herd-Barber and past Board Chair Cory Nettles, who both also serve on MCW’s board, led this unprecedented philanthropic initiative, which engaged numerous diverse and next generation philanthropists. Herb Kohl Philanthropies also provided a lead gift of $1 million.

“Milwaukee is very fortunate to have such strong African American philanthropic leaders who recognize that our impact is greater together and are committed to inviting all people to the table to invest in an equitable future,” said Ellen Gilligan, Foundation president and CEO. “The ThriveOn Collaboration has been community-centered from the start, and the collective effort to establish this chair and support Dr. Egede’s vital work clearly shows how that community leadership extends to philanthropy. We are proud to serve the donors who gave to and through the Foundation in support of this effort.”

Sharing the power of decisions

Community engagement is a hallmark of the ThriveOn Collaboration, and this includes investing in the ideas and priorities of residents and other neighborhood leaders. The collaboration is integrating community perspective and participation through a dedicated Community Advisory Council whose 15 members live or work in Halyard Park, Harambee and Brewers Hill. Council members have a prominent voice in grantmaking and program initiatives supported by the ThriveOn Collaboration. 

Through the Council’s recommendation, the ThriveOn Collaboration recently awarded $30,000 in grants to support youth through employment training and community-based activities that encourage youth social connections, promote peace and build community cohesion in the participating neighborhoods:

  • Jacarrie Kicks for Kids received $7,500 to support life skills training for youth in the Harambee neighborhood. The program is helping young people ages 10 to 18 learn, enhance and support their transition from adolescence to adulthood through training in proper job interview techniques, computer literacy, resume building, college application assistance, email etiquette and artistic expression.
  • Imagine MKE received $7,500 to engage youth in Harambee and Brewers Hill to create positive, inspirational graphic messages around safety, including posters or podcasts related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Collier's Training Institute received $7,500 to work with youth to implement various neighborhood cleanups in the Harambee community. They support mentorship opportunities that encourage and educate youth on self-love, unity, and team-building. 
  • WestCare Wisconsin, Inc. received $7,500 for services to help youth in the Harambee neighborhood participate in recreational activities that support their emotional and physical well-being during the COVID-19 pandemic. Required safety measures and COVID-19 guidelines are being followed to ensure the community’s health and safety. 

Applications for a second grant cycle will be due May 31, 2021.

Continuing the conversation

Opportunities for the community to engage with ThriveOn Collaboration team members have continued throughout February and March, and a series of April virtual sessions have been scheduled.

  • Join a Monday session from 4:30-5:30 p.m. on April 5, 12, 19 or 26.
  • Join a Tuesday session from 2-3 p.m. on April 6, 13, 20 or 27.

Instructions for joining online or by phone are included on this flyer.