Elias Usso hustled to get basic repairs done to reopen his pharmacy on Lake Street last month after it was looted and damaged in late May during the unrest following the killing of George Floyd.
Now Seward Pharmacy is getting a makeover.
It will get new shelving, floors, signage and equipment. Usso will be increasing staffing to make even more home deliveries of prescriptions and is working to get a telehealth room set up in one corner of the pharmacy.
The improvements are being funded by a $165,000 grant from Minnetonka-based UnitedHealth Group, via the nonprofit Heart of America.
“Lake Street is our home,” Usso said at an event Friday outside the pharmacy as a light snow fell. “The city of Minneapolis is our home. Minnesota is our home. We want to come back strong. Lake Street will come back strong. With your help, it’s going to be a wonderful comeback. I’m so grateful.”
Seward Pharmacy is one of several grant recipients as part of a $5 million commitment UnitedHealth Group made in June to support the rebuilding of the Twin Cities.
The company is also giving $1 million each to the Lake Street Council, Minnesota Community Care and the West Broadway Business & Area Coalition/Northside Funders. Neighbors United Funding Collaborative will receive $500,000.
The health care giant’s employees are also volunteering and providing pro-bono consulting support to the grant recipients.
These rebuilding efforts “will never bring Mr. Floyd back, but I’m hopeful the way the community is coming together can be one part of his legacy,” said Brett Edelson, CEO of UnitedHealthcare of Minnesota, a unit of UnitedHealth Group.
In addition, UnitedHealth has committed to funding the college education for Floyd’s children and is giving another $5 million to YMCA Equity Innovation Center of Excellence to help advance efforts of equality and inclusion across the state.
Several other Twin Cities-area corporations such as Target, U.S. Bank and Medtronic have also made significant contributions toward rebuilding as well as racial equity efforts following Floyd’s death.
Minnesota Community Care is using the grant from UnitedHealth to serve young people through the activation of additional mobile clinics that provide health, pharmacy and social services. Neighbors United Funding Collaborative is establishing a St. Paul fund to reopen, rebuild and in some cases relocate pharmacies, grocery stores and child and elder care centers in the Union Park, Hamline Midway and University Avenue areas.
The West Broadway Business & Area Coalition will use the funds to do the same but in north Minneapolis.
Allison Sharkey, executive director of the Lake Street Council, said her group is directing the money toward grants to independently operated health care and mental health nonprofits and businesses. It will help them make repairs, restock inventory, replace lost income and in some cases to move to new permanent locations.
She added that many businesses on Lake Street are under tremendous stress, and she encouraged people to shop at them.
Help in three languages
“Businesses like Seward Pharmacy are so important to this community,” Sharkey said. “To be able to go in, get personalized access to health care close to home in your own language from people who will take the time with you and understand where you’re coming from, I’m sure that health outcomes are better in a neighborhood with businesses like this.”
The staff at Seward Pharmacy speak three languages in addition to English — Somali, Oromo and Amharic.
Usso opened the independent pharmacy a year ago after working at other pharmacy chains because he wanted to be able to spend more time with and provide better service to patients.
He said the pharmacy was going strong until the unrest. He estimates it suffered $500,000 in damage and lost inventory.
He temporarily moved it to the other side of town so he could continue to deliver prescriptions to his patients while his pharmacy was being repaired. He reopened in his former location on Lake Street on Sept. 1.
The upgrades funded through the grant are expected to be completed over the next few months.