For many organizations, everything came to an abrupt halt eight months ago.
But not for the Progress Center for Black Women.
In the first 45 days that COVID-19 temporarily closed the doors to the center’s headquarters in Fitchburg, founder Sabrina Madison put an estimated 10,000 miles on her car driving house to house to provide resources for Black women. She has driven all over Dane County including parts of Madison she has never been before — she even traveled nearly two hours to Kenosha on two separate occasions.
She delivers rent payments, car payments, groceries, quarters for laundry and socially distant interaction.
“I just remember those early phone calls where a lot of those women who were calling us for help work in the service industry or retail,” Madison said. “They were at a point where they were living paycheck to paycheck but now their jobs have changed tremendously. And they are in a situation where they can’t have social interactions. They don’t know if they are going to get back to their job, if they are going to pay their rent, feed their kids.”
Once she started to feel that her 2006 Kia wasn’t enough to accommodate the increase in need, she and her team pulled resources together to purchase a 2020 Nisan transport van.
It is called the Mobile Resource Center, and it allows Madison and her team to meet people where they are at safely, she said.
“It is really to do what we were doing inside. Literally we call the Progress Center your extended living room, so now we are extending that living room to your front door,” she said. “So now you don’t have to come to us, we can come to you.”
The purple, blue and white van has two sliding doors and a back end that opens up wide.
“We have a purple bumper, which freaked me out while I was driving,” she said with a laugh.
Now, the team can use the van to make trips to people’s homes.
Three weeks before the shutdown, the center had hired a program and operation specialist. Since then, they’ve also hired an intern and have plans to hire another person.
The demand for support keeps the Progress Center busy.
Madison remembers one trip she made to drop off someone’s Blue Magic hair care product, which they couldn’t leave their house to get. And another trip to the West Side just to pick the mail and drop it off on someone’s front step.
She spent eight hours one day delivering Black-women themed coloring books. Everyone was ecstatic, she said.
“I was so shocked but happy. Because one of the goals of van is to provide joy — and we were able to do that by just dropping off a coloring book,” she said.
Madison and her team organized a socially distant “Progress, Pies and Pumpkins” event to premiere the Mobile Resource Center and outline everything it will have to offer.
Some details are still being confirmed but it is scheduled to take place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 31.
In the midst of COVID-19 and isolation Madison said the one thing she hopes the center brings to people is kindness and compassion.
“We are all living in the pandemic. This is our first time living through this so let’s just be kind to one another as we are all pivoting,” she said.