We are a community informed grant making foundation that seeks to measurably improve the health and well-being of individuals, families and communities in our service area by promoting health equity, quality, and access.
In June 2016, The Arthur Foundation appointed a new board of directors to re-energize and refocus our efforts on building strong communities able to foster increased health and wellness in our core service area (see map). We wanted a fresh understanding of the assets in West Cook County and asked, “How can we better support and leverage the wealth of resources and human capital in our area?”
Our first step was to invite approximately forty nonprofit leaders who provide social services, wellness, and community health services to talk to us about their work in an open and forthright dialogue.
We learned a lot about the wide range of talent, programs and services in our communities. This is a sampling of what we heard.
We learned that community members and service providers want more holistic and integrated services which they believe can be achieved with additional support for cross-sector collaboration among health providers, schools, police, and social services. Mental health and services for people with developmental disabilities are badly needed and in short supply.
High deductibles, out-of-pocket health costs, reduced childcare subsidies and cuts in social services threaten to decrease access to critical programs and services not just for low income residents but increasingly for middle class families as well. We heard about the need to safeguard services and supports for increasingly anxious immigrant and refugee communities.
And, we heard about the challenges facing the nonprofit organizations that provide the services we have just described. Many organizations are operating on thin margins despite increasing demand for their programs. Their executives talked about the complicated administrative requirements of new managed care organizations and unfunded mandates.
They discussed the pressing need for new office technologies and professional development opportunities for their staff, and the talent recruitment challenges posed by low wages and benefits in a competitive marketplace. They shared their struggles to simply pay current bills in a state that has not had a budget in over two years. They asked us to help them maintain their basic operations in this time of scarce resources.
In the near future, we will continue to expand upon our community asset and needs assessment, and we will continue to have an open door policy to listen to community concerns and solicit ideas for community-based solutions.
As the board of directors, our responsibility is to steward the Foundation’s resources to support work that builds healthy communities and addresses the most pressing needs with integrity and transparency.
In December 2016, we answered some of the concerns raised in our community conversations and granted $7.7 million to strengthen our community’s safety net, largely through general operating support grants.