Carly Mikula, daughter of Burlington native, Melanie Mikula, helps spruce up downtown Kenosha as a volunteer with Kenosha Creative Space last weekend. Downtown and uptown Kenosha experienced damage caused by riots and looting sparked by an officer-involved shooting. Carly’s school, Harborside Academy, was one of the buildings vandalized during the civil unrest.

Efforts intended to help heal city torn by violence

By Jason Arndt

Staff Writer

Burlington native Melanie Mikula woke up to a heartbreaking scene Aug. 25 in the City of Kenosha.

The city, under a national microscope since an officer-involved shooting Aug. 23, saw small businesses damaged and buildings destroyed by riots and looting.

Mikula, a 1994 Burlington High School graduate, moved to Kenosha about two years later.

On Aug. 25, she remembered walking in downtown Kenosha with her daughter, Carly, only to discover the devastation.

“I went down there on (Aug. 25) after all of the fires and we saw the destruction, and what was damaged, it was like a war zone,” Mikula said.

She also saw her daughter’s school, Harborside Academy, sustain damage with broken windows on the lower level as well as graffiti.

“It was so heartbreaking to see our city and how destroyed it was,” Mikula recalled.

The Mikulas felt compelled to offer Kenosha some assistance.

But at the time, Melanie wasn’t sure if it was safe enough to dig in, noting some fire departments were still putting out fires within the city.

“We just realized we needed to do something, we needed to help clean up, but then things got kind of crazy with all of the threats,” she said. “We weren’t sure if it was safe to go down there to volunteer that day.”

Melanie and her daughter found an opportunity to help later that week, when Kenosha Creative Space began coordinating volunteers.

The volunteers, according to Mikula, used art as small part of the city’s healing process by decorating boarded up businesses and assisting them with whatever they needed.

Mikula, however, acknowledged Kenosha will need to undergo a long-range healing process both aesthetically and economically.

“Now to go down there and see all of the colors and the positive messages, it basically makes me happy, and I know that we will get through this,” she said.

Artist Casey Kemper, of Burlington, also volunteered with Kenosha Creative Space and designed a mural on the Herzing University building.

Kemper pitched in after he saw the Kenosha group call for support.

“When I saw the call for artists online from the Kenosha Creative Space I wanted to contribute,” he said. “I wanted to make something positive in Kenosha. Art has the power to heal.”


Catholic Central faculty member Amber Weiss stands next to supplies donated by parents and students of the school for distribution to fire responders in Kenosha last week. Catholic Central reportedly filled the office within 12 hours of notifying parents.

Catholic Central rallies for Kenosha

The support also included parents, officials and students of Catholic Central High School.

Catholic Central parent Paula Antlfinger, who works in the Kenosha area, saw the damage done to the city on social media Aug. 25 and helped initiate a supply drive for first responders.

“Catholic Central saw the need that the firefighters, first responders and police officers had,” Antlfinger said. “In less than 12 hours, we had an office full of supplies for them.”

Those supplies included water, hand sanitizer, power bars, Gatorade, and other snacks.

Catholic Central parents then personally delivered the donated items to Kenosha.

Antlfinger, whose brother owns a Burlington-based business, can imagine the devastation Kenosha businesses have been experiencing since the riots.

“My brother has a business in Burlington and if someone were to set fire to it, it would be devastating,” she said.

      To read the entire story see the Sept. 3 edition of the Burlington Standard Press.