Northwest Side CDC Raises Community By Supporting Residents


Ebony Johnson (left), Sonya Brown, Willie Smith and Raymond Monk celebrate Brown’s acquisition of the building. (Photo provided by the Northwest Side Community Development Corporation)

By Ana Martinez-Ortiz

In 1989 Sonya Brown started her first childcare business. She operated the daycare in her home for years before deciding to try her hand at something else in 2012. She didn’t think she would be responsible for childcare again, but life had other plans. .

Brown had worked at Johnson Controls for several years before he was laid off. Around the same time, her daughter gave birth to a baby girl.

“My granddaughter was born with heart disease, and I just didn’t want her to be in someone’s day care where she wasn’t being cared for properly,” Brown said. “When I got fired, it was almost as if it was my calling: to work in the childcare business. “

Brown decided that she would not only take care of her granddaughter, but bring her daycare home. After restarting, Brown decided to move from a family daycare to a group daycare, which would allow her to care for more children. And with the help of her brother, she started to rent a building.

As of 2018, Little Crawler’s Daycare, 4022 N. 27th St., was officially in operation. For Brown, whose granddaughter died at the age of 5, the daycare became a place where she could honor the memory of her granddaughter.

While the building had sufficient space, the owner did not take care of it and it was eventually seized by the bank.

Last August, Brown purchased the building in a sheriff’s sale with the help of a $ 360,000 loan she received from the Northwest Side Community Development Commission, 4201 N. 27th St.

“For us, it was really important to keep this business going so that this service could be offered to these families,” said Ebony Johnson, the company’s head of resources. “And the fact that it’s in one of our designated service areas made it even more impactful for us. “

Northwest Side CDC is a community development financial institution or non-bank lender, Johnson explained. The organization’s CDFI committee should determine whether the organization can make a loan or suspend it.

As far as Brown is concerned, the possibility that his business could be relocated, which in turn would affect families, is one of the reasons the committee approved the loan, Johnson said.

Renata Bunger, Director of Business Development, explained how the Northwest Side CDC supported Brown throughout the process. Not only did the organization give him the loan, but she stood by his side during the sheriff’s sale, Bunger said, adding that the organization was able to give Brown the loan with the help. funding for the PNC.

Now that Brown owns the building, the Northwest Side CDC is helping him improve it. Two panels on the roof need to be replaced, as well as some doors, and the playing field needs to be updated, Brown said. An inspector also reported several places requiring a ledge.

Johnson explained that the role of the organization is to identify resources and stay in touch with Brown.

For example, the organization helps him get the center accredited. At the moment, Little Crawlers Daycare has two stars, but Brown is working with a YoungStar technical consultant to improve the centre’s rating and eventually be accredited by the National Association for Youth Education.

“It’s not just about getting the loan in our wallet,” Bunger said. “It’s also all this extended backend work to keep her and her physical asset issues to be resolved, financial management and everything moving forward.”

Willie Smith, executive director of the Northwest Side CDC, noted that many child care buildings are older buildings in need of repair. In Brown’s case, before she was the principle and couldn’t make any changes, now that she owns it, it’s all about funding.

“As to what she needs to fix, maybe we can help her with a few extra bucks,” Smith said. “Another part of this ongoing technical advisory support is helping her develop a plan for how all of these things are addressed to ensure her facility is in tip top shape.”

It’s about providing capital and planning assistance, Smith said. When the organization started in 1983, its goal was to help manufacturing companies, he said, and although it still does to some extent, its main goal is to help small businesses and residents through its loan program, green infrastructure and community organization.

“You can’t separate the small business community organization from green infrastructure,” Smith said. “It’s quite a total movement … for the betterment of the community.”

It’s about bringing community to life by supporting community businesses, Bunger said, for example Little Crawler’s Daycare, which is a business owned by black women in a black community.

Milwaukeeans also play a role in uplifting and supporting their fellow citizens.

Keep the dollars in the community, Bunger said. Support local businesses, said Smith, and be aware of the impact.

Be open to sharing resources, Johnson said, noting that taking a common perspective on this might encourage people to share more. She added that there needs to be more clarity about where businesses can find resources.

By 2022, Northwest Side CDC plans to expand its infrastructure to support more small businesses, pursue real estate development projects and increase the number of high performing businesses.

“Northwest Side CDC is a company that loves helping their community because it’s right next to me,” said Brown. “They are trying to develop this area and they are very useful in other areas, not just in terms of funding.”

In addition to making the necessary repairs, Brown focuses on other issues such as obtaining and retaining reliable staff. It’s a problem common to many daycares, she said. His plan is to offer a SIMPLE IRA plan to employees that is similar to a 401 (k).

Despite all the work that remains to be done, Brown knows she’s in the right place.

“The rewarding part is seeing the smiles on the children’s faces,” she said.


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