The Health Foundation Welcomes Senior Program Officer Jennie Blake

The Health Foundation is pleased to welcome Ms. Jennie Blake, M.S.W. in the position of Senior Program Officer.

Jennie will assume primary responsibility for the development and implementation of the Foundation’s Activation Fund grants, which are typically one-year grants for discrete projects aimed at helping nonprofit organizations working to improve health in Central Massachusetts shift to a higher level of capacity that can be sustained over time. She will provide technical assistance to applicants and grantees, manage the award process, monitor grants, and assist in evaluating the Foundation’s impact.  Welcome Jennie!

Textbook Features WISR Project

The Foundation’s effective use of evaluation has been featured in a graduate level textbook entitled The Practice of Evaluation: Partnership Approaches for Community Change published last month. A chapter on Empowerment Evaluation uses the example of the Worcester Initiative for Supported Reentry (WISR) project, one of the Foundation’s Round 3 Synergy Initiative projects.  The chapter was co-authored by Dr. Pam Imm (evaluation consultant to the Foundation), Dr. Mary Brolin (WISR project evaluator), Ms. Opal Stone (WISR project manager) and Dr. Jan Yost, (Foundation president). 

WISR achieved its goal of reducing recidivism among men and women who were formerly incarcerated, thereby improving public safety and public health.  The recidivism rate among WISR participants three years post-release was 20.8%, a reduction of 47% relative to a historical comparison group. This  decrease in recidivism led to a savings of more than $375,000 for a 59% return on investment based on one-year incarceration costs.

WISR’s advocacy efforts resulted in reentry programming being included in the state’s 2018 Criminal Justice Reform legislation.  The state subsequently allocated $7 million in FY 19-21 to pilot reentry services in Worcester and Middlesex Counties.

2020 Activation Fund Grantees

The Health Foundation is pleased to announce the 2020 Activation Fund grants totaling nearly $700,000:

Building Futures – $49,998 for facility and technology upgrades to the Worcester Housing Authority’s Youth Center in Great Brook Valley, which provides youth ages 5-14 with tutoring and homework help.

CENTRO $50,000 to hire a community health worker to assess the needs of people using its food pantry and refer them to other services CENTRO offers if they are eligible.

Christopher House of Worcester $39,082 for a program to enhance the skills of its first line managers and train peer mentors with the goal of reducing the turnover rates of both nurses and CNAs. 

Edward M. Kennedy Community Health Center – $60,000 for four dental chairs as part of its plans to expand its Milford site to include dental services, optometry and a 340B pharmacy. 

Genesis Club $40,000 to create a “virtual clubhouse” to enable Genesis Club to reach out to people recovering from mental illness who cannot access its physical location, allowing people to access clubhouse services remotely. 

Jeffrey’s House $23,772 for the installation of sprinklers in three sober living houses it operates in Fitchburg and for accessibility renovations in two of the houses.

Living in Freedom Together (LIFT) – $19,000 for the installation of sprinklers at its residential home for survivors of commercial sexual exploitation.

LUK, Inc. – $50,000 to support telebehavioral health services for students in middle and high schools in Central Massachusetts. 

NEADS World Class Service Dogs – $50,000 for the construction of its Behavioral Check List space to test puppies to determine their eligibility to enter NEADS training  programs as Service Dogs.

Open Sky Community Services – $45,777 to expand telepsychiatry services in its group homes. 

Quinsigamond Community College (QCC) $70,790 to upgrade instructional equipment in QCC’s Radiologic Technology program to better prepare QCC students for their clinical rotations and entering the workforce.

Seven Hills Family Services $49,620 to upgrade AV equipment in order to record, edit and translate training sessions offered at its family support centers in Worcester, Fitchburg and Sturbridge so that families who cannot attend the sessions can access them online at their convenience. 

South Middlesex Opportunity Council – $50,000 for the pre-development costs associated with converting the second floor of a building in Worcester into a 50-bed permanent emergency shelter facility. 

Worcester Common Ground (WCG) $100,000 to install a rooftop greenhouse on an affordable housing project WCG is developing in Worcester which will allow residents to grow produce for themselves and their families. 

“Throughout Worcester County there are many important health, education, and human service agencies and organizations, which, through the efforts of their dedicated staffs, are providing essential services to our most vulnerable populations,” said Francis M. Saba, Chairman of the Board of the Foundation.  “The critical nature of their work has been heightened by the challenges of the current pandemic. Through our Foundation’s annual Activation Fund process we are able to help support many of these agencies and organizations.  In 2020, 66 letters of intent to participate in the application process for support from the Activation Fund were submitted.  Of the 66 letters, many were from organizations that had never applied and others from both previous applicants and agencies that had not previously been invited to apply.  The 66 letters in 2020 compare with 38 from 2019.  Clearly the need for support has increased and is significant.  After a thorough review of the letters and applications by our experienced and thoughtful Foundation staff, 14 projects with support of $698,039 were funded.  Five of the projects totaling $271,000 were specifically funded in response to the pandemic.  Our Foundation is pleased to continue to do our part in helping these agencies.”

Dr. Jan Yost, President and CEO of the Foundation noted, “The goal of the Activation Fund is to enable an organization to move to a higher level of capacity and to then continue to function at that higher level after the grant ends.” Yost explained that Activation Fund grants typically are for one-year projects that demonstrate a creative and innovative approach to alleviate an existing community health concern or that address an emerging health challenge in the region. 

Synergy Initiative Featured in The Foundation Review

Douglas Easterling, Ph. D., and Laura McDuffee, M.P.A, both of Wake Forest School of Medicine have published an article in The Foundation Review summarizing the systems-change outcomes from 14 Synergy Initiative projects since 2000. Dr. Easterling and Ms. McDuffee conducted interviews with individual working on some of the successful projects.

To download the article, click here.