Using lessons learned about civic engagement and community service at Penn State, two alumni who attended the Abington campus have raised more than $200,000 in eight weeks for their new nonprofit aimed at rebuilding Black-owned businesses nationwide.
In the wake of the coronavirus-induced economic downturn and the civil unrest that damaged businesses following the death of George Floyd, Zelnnetta Clark and Alexis Akarolo were galvanized to create Rebuild the Block.
“This is a community effort to redistribute wealth, resources and knowledge back to the Black community. We are setting Black entrepreneurs up for success,” Clark, a post-baccalaureate pre-med student in California, said. “One hundred percent of the proceeds will be distributed to the community.”
To qualify for Rebuild the Block funding, businesses must be Black-owned, have documentation of their legitimacy in terms of losses, verify that they’ve been impacted by COVID-19 or looting or both, and certify that they were in business before Jan. 1, 2020.
"To make sure we are credible, we emphasize an extensive verification process including demographic information and uploading their tax information and bank statements among other items,” Akarolo said. “We have money coming from donors, and we want to make sure it isn’t donated in vain.”
The first round of grants was distributed to six businesses including ValueNetPC in Maryland, The Blaxican Mexican Soul Food truck and restaurant in Atlanta, and Intriguing Hair Extensions in Boston. The funds have been used to purchase machinery, support development and programs, and pay rent.