MHK Together program provides financial assistance to locals affected by COVID-19

(Archive Photo by Parker Robb | Collegian Media Group)

Manhattan-based marketing agency 502 Media Group recently teamed up with the Greater Manhattan Community Foundation and local businesses to launch MHK Together.

It’s an online program to provide food and grocery assistance to those experiencing financial hardships brought on by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“MHK Together enables customers to put dollars in the hands of their favorite businesses while also providing food assistance to those affected by layoffs and reductions in pay,” Blade Mages, principal and founder of 502, said. “The food service, hospitality, local retail and personal care and service industries were some of the first to feel the impact of these restrictions … and some of the first who were forced to close and possibly lay off employees. This program was designed for them.”

MHK Together operates on a buy one, give one premise. When you buy a gift card from any of the participating local businesses, the amount spent will be matched dollar-for-dollar in the form of a Dillons or HyVee gift card and that will be given to individuals financially impacted by the pandemic.

The matched money is coming from the Ward & Brenda Morgan Donor Advised Fund, the Lincoln & Dorothy Deihl Advised Fund and the Mary Vanier Donor Advised Fund, all of which are administered through GMCF.

“The goal was to keep community members supporting their favorite businesses so they can maintain a cash flow and to offer an inspiration to do so from the ‘buy one, give one’ promotion that will help those with lost earnings due to closures and restrictions,” Vern Henricks, CEO and president of GMCF, said. “We also hope that we might inspire people to find their generous side and be thankful for what we all have and reach out and help those that may not be as fortunate.”

Mages said that the idea for MHK Together stemmed from him observing the economic impact that the coronavirus has had on the coasts, and trying to figure out what to do for the local Manhattan community in the midst of the pandemic.

“Our agency believes that we have a responsibility to serve our community in times of crisis and recognize that we have hired a team of thinkers and makers who are uniquely qualified for creative problem solving,” Mages said.

The marketing agency reached out to GMCF with the concept, and within a week MHK Together was up and running. Mages said that the local response has been phenomenal.

“We put $100,000 into small businesses and raised $100,000 of grocery assistance in just over 100 hours,” Mages said. “That kind of response says a lot about this community and how willing all of Manhattan is to step up in times of need.”

Mages and Henricks both hope this program will remind members of the community that we’re all in this together, and that social isolation doesn’t have to equate to being inactive.

“In a time where we are all practicing social distancing, it is easy to feel alone and isolated,” Mages said. “I hope that programs like MHK Together can remind everyone just how strong our sense of community is and how, though we are all apart, we’re all in this together.”