WESTFIELD, NJ — Many have been moved to action by recent national events following the death of George Floyd at the hands of police officers in Minneapolis. Westfield resident and owner of dance fitness studio Sweat Sanctuary Lisa Benke is no different.

Last week, she launched a local business alliance called We Work For Change that she hopes will work toward dismantling racism and fundraising for local underserved and underprivileged communities and programs.

“When all of this began a few weeks ago, I had a very strong reaction,” Benke said. “After reading more and listening to podcasts, I knew I needed to act, but didn’t know how. Our family has donated to causes in the past, but it was no longer enough.”

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Benke formed a committee of volunteers and on Thursday night held a Zoom meeting for the 25 or so interested local businesses.

“As a united force, the impact could be exponential, so I started brainstorming and reaching out to other businesses,” Benke said. “We have a lot of people in the community who feel strongly, but didn’t know how to go about tackling these issues.”

The alliance, which is in its infancy, continues to work toward defining exactly what they plan to do, but their mission already indicates that they will focus on advocacy and education.

“The committee ensures that the alliance has a ‘backbone’ to do the heavy lifting,” she said. “We want to be able to focus on fundraising, and as our small businesses are getting back to work after COVID-19 shutdowns, we understand that they simply can’t focus on that right now.”

To learn how you can help, email Benke at westfieldworksforchange@gmail.com. Follow We Work for Change on Instagram at @weworkforchange.

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