VOICES: Logan Herring seeks ways to “help the community”
WILMINGTON — Logan Herring has been in the eye of the storm over the past 10 weeks.
“Before the pandemic, we were off to the races with a $37 million capital campaign and had raised over a third but then the pandemic hit us like everyone and we were at a complete standstill for a couple of weeks,” said Herring, the CEO of what he calls the WRK Group – The Warehouse, REACH Riverside, and Kingswood Community Center. “We weren’t sure how to proceed but then we focused on our core question – How Can We Help the Community?”
The organization immediately applied for financial support programs like PPP and received all three, enabling it to avoid furloughs or layoffs for its 100 employees.
Then Herring created what he concedes was the “insane idea” of the Riverside Relief Fund, which is distributing $250 to each of the neighborhood’s 300 households in May, June, and July.
The first distribution of 180 debit cards ($45,000) was made in late May. Registering required residents to answer 14 questions – where they live, number of adults and children in each home, whether they’ve completed the census and registered to vote, employment status, whether they have a laptop or table in the home, whether they have WiFi in the home, and how they plan to spend their Riverside Relief funds.
“We learned what our community needs through the registration,” Herring said, which led to the distribution of 400 Chromebooks through NERDiT NOW, whose founder, former Riverside resident Markevis Gordon, appeared on ABC’s Shark Tank in 2019.
“I spoke to a mother the other day who has eight kids with only one device in the house,” Herring said. “How do you do virtual learning? How do you divvy up that one device? At school, they’d have access to all that.”
At the same time, Herring’s team was reaching out to ChristianaCare to talk about screening and testing, since many residents don’t have cars or family doctors.
“We’ve since provided 142 COVID-19 screenings for symptoms and 107 tests, with 23 positive responses,” meaning that about 75% of residents are showing signs of the virus, Herring said. “Of the 107 folks tested, 23 are positive (21.5% positive rate). The pandemic is real.”
Herring said there has been a “lot of anxiety” around testing in his primarily African-American community, but that the distribution of the $250 debit cards brought more people through the doors who can learn about testing. The Riverside public-housing community has about 300 homes and 1,100 residents – with 84% of them single-parent homes (with 91% of those led by women), and there’s been a jump in registrations since the first distribution.
The single-parent home demographic is a key indicator for both susceptibility to the coronavirus and other health factors and to many of the inequities that have driven the recent social unrest, Herring said. But while getting screened and tested was not a requirement of receiving funds from the Riverside Relief Fund, all 24 people who received the cards one day in late May agreed to get tested.
As for what happened in Wilmington on May 31, Herring said that “as things got worse, we had teenagers in the Warehouse who were telling other teens and young people under 25 to stay away from downtown. The people we have a relationship with were staying at home after participating peacefully in the first part of the day when things were calmer. Others in the community didn’t. But many of our young people were out there on Sunday – with neighborhood residents, the police, and many others — helping clean up.”
Herring says he’s “hopeful” about the next steps.
“We were already in the middle of a pandemic when COVID-19 arrived. We’re getting better support, but the needs are so much higher. I have faith. We have attention, support, and allies who are saying enough is enough. Now that we have that support, it’s on me to determine how we can take advantage in a good way, to increase our footprint, increase our capacity. We were already a relief organization. We don’t need to change course. We’re just trying to fill a gap.”
— Peter Osborne