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Packers player Oren Burks, American Family Insurance surprise Sherman Phoenix tenants with $40,000 in rent assistance 

Donations will provide six months of rent relief for six businesses

LB Oren Burks
LB Oren Burks

Green Bay Packers player Oren Burks helped deliver a special surprise today to six businesses in Milwaukee: six months of rent relief for their leases at the Sherman Phoenix, thanks to a $40,000 donation from the Packers and American Family Insurance.

The Sherman Phoenix is a thriving entrepreneurial hub in Milwaukee's Sherman Park neighborhood, home to 27 small businesses predominantly owned by people of color, offering diverse foods, wellness services and cultural activities.

Burks shared the news over Zoom, surprising six business owners from CTRL C, Funky Fresh Spring Rolls, Hello Beautiful, Lavish Salon, Rise and Grind Coffee Shop, and Underground Makers Market. The benefiting businesses were chosen by Sherman Phoenix to receive the additional support. 

"With so many small businesses facing continued challenges due to the pandemic, we're proud to join with American Family Insurance to support these entrepreneurs," said Burks. "We hope this rent assistance can help them prioritize other needs to keep their businesses growing and thriving in the months ahead."

Burks, who has helped direct donations to the Sherman Phoenix through the Packers social justice initiative in previous years, also is a member of the board of directors for the Sherman Phoenix Foundation, the nonprofit arm of the business and cultural hub. 

American Family Insurance donated $20,000 and the Packers matched the donation, bringing the total amount to $40,000. American Family Insurance recently pledged $100,000 each year for three years to Sherman Phoenix, and helped establish the Sherman Phoenix Foundation.

"We're committed to protecting the dreams of those living and working in our communities, and this is just another way to positively impact minority owned businesses that can use the support at this time of year," said Seth Freeman, American Family Insurance brand and marketing experiences associate vice president. "Our valued partnership with the Green Bay Packers goes way beyond the field, allowing us to deliver on our promise to help close equity gaps." 

This community investment in Sherman Phoenix is part of American Family's Free to Dream initiative announced in 2021. American Family has pledged $105 million over the next five years to further its already deep commitment to closing racial equity gaps and affecting social impact and positive change in communities across the country.  

The Packers have supported Sherman Phoenix and its businesses since 2018, awarding several grants to help support entrepreneurs of color and their growing businesses as part of the team's ongoing pledge to support social justice and racial equality in Wisconsin communities.

Sherman Phoenix works to foster change and ensure the eastern gateway to the Sherman Park neighborhood in Milwaukee is a safe, welcoming space that is home to a variety of small businesses-of-color offering diverse foods, wellness services and cultural activities. The socially just and culturally rich real estate project provides mentorship and coaching to help entrepreneurs of color grow their businesses, generate jobs and support the local economy. For more information, visit

Note to media: Members of the media are welcome to use video from the Zoom surprise here:

Representatives from the benefiting businesses are available for interviews about receiving these donations. Media members can contact: Trueman McGee with Funky Fresh Spring Rolls, (414) 841-8915,; Jamila Riley with the Urban Under Ground Makers Market, (414) 213-5638,*;* and Latrece Nelson with Lavish Salon, (414) 745-7707,*.*

Leana Nakielski, Diversity and Inclusion Director with American Family Insurance, also is available to discuss the donations at*.*

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