Ethan Brooks, left and Iverson May take care of some young chickens at On the Rise farm Thursday. The farm, which gives at-rinsk young people a chance to learn and grow as they work on a farm, recently received a $7,000 grant from the Community Health Foundation for the 2017-18 grant cycle. The Community Health Foundation is giving out more than $180,000 in grant money this year, tripling the amount it gave out four years ago. Bill Lackey/Staff

$180K awarded to improve health in Clark, Champaign counties

The foundation expects to exceed $200,000 in awards next year, Executive Director Joy Rogers said. The foundation gave out about $67,000 in grant money in its first cycle in 2014-2015.

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An increase in the foundation’s endowment has allowed it to grow its grants that support more than 25 organizations, she said.

“We were blessed with being able to share that with the community and try to improve the health and wellness of the community,” Rogers said. “It’s so important to fund other organizations who are doing good work within Springfield, Clark County and the Champaign County areas in order to move the needle.”

The foundation was created in 1986 and is the last remaining entity of the former Community Hospital. Its mission is to preserve reproductive services, promote health and wellness, and advocate for quality health care through grants and education, Rogers said.

With the merger of the hospitals, the Catholic-based Mercy Health organization couldn’t provide some reproductive services, such as sterilizations and tubal ligations, Rogers said. The foundation is able to provide the same service that was available prior to the hospital merger, she said.

“We wanted to continue to have those services here so that people didn’t have to go outside of our community,” Rogers said.

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A few years ago, the foundation increased its emphasis on supporting local organizations with similar missions, she said, such as healthy living; safety net services; reproductive, emotional and mental health; and substance abuse.

“The overall emphasis is to improve the overall health and wellness of our community,” Rogers said.

The Community Health Foundation’s board also committed $90,000 to improve the community’s oral health, Rogers said. The foundation is a member of the Oral Health Coalition, which will work to create access, education and policy changes.

United Senior Services received its first $10,000 grant this cycle to begin a pilot health program through a partnership with Community Mercy Occupational Health, USS Executive Director Maureen Fagans said. The program is a health and wellness passport program, allowing seniors to have fun while taking charge of their health with the resources necessary to do it, she said. It’s expected to begin at the end of the summer.

Without the foundation, the program wouldn’t have been possible, Fagans said. The seniors agency is dependent on federal funds to administer services, she said, which often have restrictions.

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“Organizations like the Community Health Foundation are critical to our local population because they know the issues and they know where the priorities are to improve upon our communities health,” she said. “They know the agencies and can make an informed decision when it comes to directing dollars.

The foundation also gave $7,000 to On-The-Rise, 4177 Dialton Road, a 15-year-old nonprofit designed to teach life and social skills to hundreds of at-risk youth, ages 10 to 19, on the farm.

The farm recently started a program for students ages 16 through 19, Director Deb McCollough said.

“Without someone like the foundation stepping in to help us, we wouldn’t be here,” she said. “We certainly appreciate everything they do for this community, not just us.”

The foundation’s partnership with the community is top-notch, said Health Educator Anita Biles of the Clark County Combined Health District. Its able to set goals and get resources to the right areas of need in the community, she said. The foundation also allows organizations to apply for mini-grants of $900 or less to get projects off the ground.

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“Sometimes people just need $500 to help them kick something off,” she said. “Those are ideal.”

The foundation will host an open house from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. June 7 at its office located next to the Emergency Department of the downtown Springfield Regional Medical Center. For more information, call 937-523-7002 or 523-7007.

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