Palm Health Foundation’s $2.3 million investment served as catalyst to bring organizations and residents together during a time of deep need, isolation and apprehension.
West Palm Beach, FL–Palm Health Foundation, Palm Beach County’s community foundation for health, invested $2,316,345 in innovative solutions to complex health challenges during 2020, including significant funding toward COVID-19 relief. The foundation quickly turned its grantmaking efforts toward COVID-19 as soon as the pandemic struck in March 2020, investing in communities with the greatest disparities and coronavirus-related health concerns throughout the past year. The foundation’s unique Healthier Together initiative—a grantmaking strategy that puts power and funds in the hands of residents to solve community challenges—became the platform for rapid deployment of resources and funds in vulnerable communities and inspired organizations across the county to form new alliances during the crisis.
As one example, the EJS Project, a grassroots youth nonprofit founded by Delray Beach resident Emanuel "Dupree" Jackson, Jr., received monies from Palm Health Foundation’s new COVID-relief Neighbors Helping Neighbors Fund to take immediate action in helping families who shared a story of crisis through PHFshares.org, an initiative that has collected over 1,200 stories from residents affected by the pandemic. EJS Project youth reviewed submissions and decided how to help those in deep need, including a husband and father who lost his job while his wife battled stage 4 ovarian and colon cancers. The youth stepped in with emergency assistance to help pay his mortgage and delivered PPE to the family. The EJS Project’s efforts were the catalyst for the “Rapid Response Team,” an expanded coalition for responding to residents with an immediate crisis that joins together the EJS Project, Healthier Together communities, BeWellPBC, Community Partners of South Florida and the Palm Beach Atlantic Volunteer Nursing Corps. To-date, the team has reached 240 people with challenges ranging from COVID-related homelessness to mental health supports and hunger.
“So much of EJS Project’s programming is around equity and putting our youth in positions to be tomorrow’s leaders,” said Jackson. “A big piece of that is giving them the right tools to learn and navigate the world they see. The funding from Palm Health Foundation gave our children the opportunity to help with the relief-planning process and carry it out directly to residents in need.”
Ricky Petty, project director of Palm Health Foundation’s Healthier Boynton Beach initiative, was also a conduit for helping residents in need during COVID-19 thanks to a grant from the foundation. Petty recognized the “Heart of Boynton” neighborhood in ZIP code 33435 was a hot spot for COVID-19 cases but did not have a testing site for residents. He brought together a partnership with Boynton Beach nonprofit organizations, Genesis Community Health and Pathways to Prosperity, to apply for funding from the foundation for a drive-through and walk-up testing site three days a week at St. John Missionary Baptist Church. Over 1,500 people in the community were tested during a six-week period, and the partners took great care to educate the community about the virus and the importance of testing through creating educational materials in English and Creole as part of the funding they received—an important component as misinformation caused some residents to be wary about COVID-19 testing.
“Residents were more likely to participate once they saw that the information was coming from Healthier Boynton Beach,” said Petty. “They trust us and know we are sensitive to the community, which enables us to be a liaison for bringing together partners to do a wonderful thing for our neighborhoods with the support of Palm Health Foundation.”
Corinne Danielson, executive director of the non-profit Sari Center for integrative cancer care, is also grateful to Palm Health Foundation for continuing to provide support for the patients her team serves. The Sari Center was forced to close its two locations in Palm Beach Gardens and West Palm Beach due to COVID, but as Danielson says, “Our patients’ cancer didn’t stop.” In fact, their needs for Sari Center’s navigation and counseling services increased as COVID-19 forced cancer patients to face biopsies, chemo and surgeries alone, with no loved ones allowed by their sides. Palm Health Foundation funded a part-time patient coordinator, enabling Sari Center’s navigation team to increase the touchpoints they have with patients in those first critical weeks following a diagnosis, when the isolating effects of COVID-19 are felt most deeply. Sari Center navigators listen to a patient’s needs and create a tailored plan at no cost, ensuring he or she has access and support for clinical care, counseling, and integrative therapies to improve symptoms and side-effects. Multiple follow-ups via phone or video have helped cancer patients feel cared for and connected.
“Navigation is such a key piece of a patient’s care,” said Danielson. “The isolation and loneliness can be overwhelming, especially with COVID. The funding Palm Health Foundation provided allows our team to spend more time listening and helping our patients get the support they need for better outcomes and quality of life.”
Reflecting on a year of unprecedented need, Palm Health Foundation president and CEO Patrick McNamara is grateful for all the people who have come together to care for Palm Beach County. “We’re able to create impact that touches people’s lives in significant ways because of relationships,” said McNamara. “Relationships with donors who trust us to make a significant difference in the health of our community. Relationships that inspire nonprofits to collaborate and do more together than they could alone. And relationships with our resident leaders, who know better than anyone how our funding can lift up communities and become more resilient because they are able to create solutions themselves.”
About Palm Health Foundation
Palm Health Foundation is Palm Beach County’s community foundation for health. With the support of donors and a focus on results, the foundation builds strong community partnerships, respects diverse opinions, advocates for its most vulnerable neighbors and inspires innovative solutions to lead change for better health now and for generations to come. The foundation supports health equity for Palm Beach County residents of all backgrounds, heritage, education, incomes and states of well-being. Palm Health Foundation has invested more than $85 million in Palm Beach County health since 2001. For more information about Palm Health Foundation, visit palmhealthfoundation.org or call (561) 833-6333.