Grants focus on health, poverty

Nearly $600,000 given to nonprofits, schools in S.W. Washington

By Scott Hewitt, Columbian Arts & Features Reporter

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Making Clark County a healthier place to grow up — and to live out your life — is the emphasis behind the biggest grants in a big round of giving just announced by the Community Foundation for Southwest Washington.

The local charitable foundation just awarded $590,433 in grants to 38 nonprofit agencies and schools. The Healthy Living Collaborative of Southwest Washington and Clark County Health Department’s ACEs program were each awarded $50,000 — the two largest grants in the whole group.

The Healthy Living Collaborative is a team of community partners that’s seeking to align local policies and systems for the betterment of everyone’s health and the reduction of chronic disease — with a special emphasis on social problems such as poverty that tend to have a major negative impact on health.

The group includes private health care and public health agencies, social service and housing providers, churches, private businesses, public transit, a tribal nation and more. The relatively new group has already deployed community health workers in such places as Vancouver’s Rose Village neighborhood, and other members are looking at public policies at the local and state levels as they relate to topics including healthy eating, active living and elimination of tobacco.

The Clark County Health Department’s ACEs program is looking at a hot topic in health these days: adverse childhood experiences. Those are the early traumas that have long-standing impacts on people’s health and well-being, recent science has found. Such traumas include abuse and neglect, hunger and displacement, or a parent who’s incarcerated or addicted to drugs. Most people have an ACE or two up their sleeve, it’s been found, but the more you have, the more likely you are to run into serious health problems such as obesity, chronic disease, alcoholism, teen pregnancy and even cancer.

Early childhood education also won big, with $34,333 going to Educational Service District 112’s grow-and-learn program for preschool children and their parents, and $30,000 going to the Foundation for Vancouver Public Schools’ kindergarten Jump Start program.

The Council for the Homeless got $30,000 for a housing relief fund and the Clark College Foundation got $30,000 for general operating expenses.

Many smaller gifts, in the range of $5,000 to $25,000, went to a wide variety of other agencies and causes, from the Clark County Historical Museum ($5,000 for a native beadwork exhibit) and the Ethnic Support Council of Kelso ($5,000 for translation services) to the Children’s Justice and Advocacy Center of Longview ($15,000 in general support) and the Children’s Center’s ($25,000 for mental health programs).

More than 100 grant applications were evaluated by a committee, according to Community Foundation spokesman Maury Harris, with the majority of funds directed to interrupting the cycle of intergenerational poverty — a strategic focus that the Community Foundation adopted in 2013.

A second round of grants will be awarded at the end of the year; the application period for those is open now though July 31. To learn more about applying, and to see the whole list of first-round grantees, visit www.cfsww.org.