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Community Investment Fund

NorthShore employees cleaning up the canal near Evanston Hospital

NorthShore University HealthSystem, including Swedish Hospital and Northwest Community Healthcare (NCH), have awarded $2.6 million to be distributed to seven organizations across Lake and Cook Counties through its Community Investment Fund. As a prominent feature of their merger, NorthShore and Edward-Elmhurst Health each committed $100 million to their respective communities, for a combined total of $200 million. These funds will generate millions of dollars annually to enhance health and wellbeing, advance health equity and support local economic growth. Edward-Elmhurst Health expects to solicit proposals and announce awardees in the coming months.

Press Release: NorthShore University HealthSystem Announces First Community Investment Fund Partners

Inaugural Awardees

NorthShore’s partner organizations are all working to address priority areas of need including mental health services for the underserved, help for victims of domestic violence, economic and career development, support for those with food insecurity and mobile services outreach.

Rosalind Franklin University’s Community Care Connection

Rosalind Franklin University Health Clinics
Awarded: $682,000
Expand mobile medical outreach services throughout Lake County that aim to improve health equity and better long-term health outcomes among Lake County’s underserved communities through increased health literacy and access to important health services.

There's a host of reasons why some people find it hard to access healthcare. Lack of funds, time and transportation to name a few. Rosalind Franklin University solves them all with an "uber"-friendly clinic-on-wheels that offers a slew of medical screening services for free to low-income Lake Country residents, many of whom are un- or under-insured. Now the program can extend the hours of operation of its mobile outreach by bringing on new healthcare providers, says Lupe Rodriguez, NP, Director of Community Health Engagement: "Our program helps our patients understand their health status and, if necessary, take steps to improve their health by connecting them with a primary care provider. This medical outreach empowers them to take charge of their health."

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A mobile clinic

Rosalind Franklin road warriors, from left, Francisco Navarro, Lupe Rodriguez, Mayra Trujillo, Maxine Mejia


Highwood Public Library & Community Center

Highwood Public Library
Awarded: $578,000
Provide bilingual preventative health and mental health education, case management and counseling to underserved families in Lake County.

Serving a community where 50% of the residents are Latinx, one-third are foreign-born and many do not have access to transportation or medical coverage, this trusted neighborhood institution has long-focused on helping its residents to access the American dream: through literacy, knowledge, and a better quality of life. The organization stays relevant with a grassroots approach that listens and responds to community needs via an engaged group of community health workers (promotoras de salud.) For years, the library has provided health literacy education and access to preventative health resources. Now, in response to a community struggling with emotional health needs that have been exacerbated by the global pandemic, the organization is sharpening its focus on mental health services. "In a culture where mental health is stigmatized, preventing individuals from seeking the services they need, we are a safe space where families can feel comfortable expressing their needs and seeking the support necessary to overcome challenges," says Carmen Patlan, Executive Director. "We are establishing best practices that reimagine what libraries can be to their communities."

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two women in a room

From left, Highwood Public Library and Community Center Executive Director Carmen Patlan and Associate Director Laura Ramirez

Episode 6

Jenise Celestin spends a day with Highwood Library & Community Center executive director Carmen Patlán and her incredible team. What inspired them to first offer healthcare services in a library, how did they earn the trust of their community, and how will they use their grant to expand mental health resources and counseling?


The AUX

The AUX
Awarded: $500,000
Support the creation of a brand new hub for start-ups and small businesses centered around holistic wellness, uplifting Black entrepreneurs and generating local job creation in Evanston.

The AUX will be a community-owned economic hub of Black entrepreneurs who are converting a 16,000+ square foot industrial building in Evanston into a vibrant space for Black-owned businesses with a common goal of improving community wellness. The endeavor features 12 anchor tenants, including a juice bar, a laundry café serving healthy fare options, a physical and mental health fitness center, and marketplace for like-minded pop-ups. In coming together, these Black business leaders support one another along with a network of Black-owned vendors and suppliers. They will create 30+ jobs, increase access to wellness services and inspire future generations. The AUX, which plans to open in 2023, also uses a unique financial model that provides opportunities for community members to invest as owners. “We are not a charity,” says anchor tenant Tosha Wilson, a 20-year veteran and sergeant of the Evanston Police Department, who was turned down for bank loans for her laundry cafe. "We are business people seeking investments, taking risks, building community legacies hopefully, and making a path for other black businesses to succeed.”

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three people in front of a mural

Anchor tenants in The AUX, from left, Gabori Partee Sr., Tiffini Holmes and Tosha Wilson


Between Friends

Between Friends
Awarded: $300,000
Expand domestic violence support and educational programs aimed at ending the cycle of abuse in our communities, including a 24-hour helpline and counseling services.

Imagine being a victim of domestic violence. Now imagine you're a victim in a pandemic, where lockdowns further limit your options for help. Operating for over 35 years as a lifeline for domestic violence support and education, Between Friends saw a 75% jump in crisis line calls in the first year of COVID-19, and a 30% jump in demand for deeper-level services in that same period. "It was and is an incredibly scary time for the participants we serve," says Executive Director Sandy T. Williams. "Think about being trapped in the house where you and your kids are experiencing physical, mental or financial harm with nowhere to go," says Williams. "Couple that with pandemic job loss in communities that are low income, and the stress is significant." While it has had a longstanding relationship with Swedish Hospital, for which it has helmed countless education sessions teaching hospital staff how to recognize signs of domestic abuse, the new level of partnership affords the agency funds needed to support bi-lingual counseling support,  while also enhancing community outreach, and relaunch programs it was forced to shutter by pandemic staff losses.

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the members of between friends on stairs

From bottom, Between Friends’ Executive Director Sandy T. Williams with agency anchors Isabel Wolf, Maria Cardona, Susan Pieters and Nancy Toncy


ASPIRE Community Healthcare Workforce Development Program

 
Awarded: $200,000
Support the city of Evanston’s launch of a new workforce development partnership that creates a pipeline for students and young adults in Evanston and surrounding communities to explore careers in healthcare. Working together with community partners, the program aims to provide a breadth of opportunities including early exposure to healthcare roles, job shadowing, internships, financial support, certification programs and more. To magnify and accelerate these efforts, the city of Evanston matched NorthShore’s contribution from their American Rescue Plan Act funds ($200,000), which was then matched with a generous donation from the Finnegan Family Foundation ($200,000).

The inspiration behind ASPIRE is simple, but powerful: combine the brain trust of community organizations that have a stake in educating and encouraging diverse young talent to stay local--and then invest in making it happen. ASPIRE combines the commitment and resources of the city of Evanston and partners such as Evanston Township High School, Youth Job Center, the Evanston Work Ethic (WE) Program, NorthShore University HealthSystem and many others to help teens and young adults explore healthcare careers through exposure to healthcare roles, job shadowing, internships, certification programs and more. The city of Evanston and the Finnegan Foundation matched NorthShore's original $200,000 contribution. Says Evanston Mayor Daniel Biss: "Our goal is to plant that seed: what future can you imagine for yourself? What future seems tangible and possible? If we can influence that early, it can have enormous impact on the choices our young people make and their chances of thriving and staying in our community."

 

three members of ASPIRE

The city of Evanston and NorthShore are two of many partners in ASPIRE. From left, NorthShore’s Samir Desai, city of Evanston’s Kelley Gandurski, Mayor Daniel Biss and Nathan Norman, and Evanston Hospital President Doug Silverstein.


The Friendship Center

The Friendship Center
Awarded: $200,000
Support food insecure populations via facility enhancement to create a flexible, lower-stigma client choice pantry, increased mobile outreach and improved connection to resources for Chicago’s northwest side neighbors in need.

Hunger exists in each zip code and every neighborhood. Operating within a stone's throw from Swedish Hospital, The Friendship Center has served those facing food insecurity for more than fifty years – but none of those years prepared it for the crush of COVID-19. As demand for groceries quickly increased fifty percent and its hot meals volume doubled, it did all it could to keep up with the spike in need. Unfortunately, that meant compromising the client experience. But the new partnership with NorthShore-Swedish is enabling the organization to reimagine its facility focusing on the neighbor’s perspective. Plans to reduce stigma associated with visiting a pantry include transforming it to a welcoming, normalized grocery shopping experience, and increasing access to available helpful benefits, information, and services. Additionally, optimizing its onsite storage capacity and becoming more flexible with mobile distributions will improve throughput.  "There are always those who have chronic or episodic need, never more than now," says Executive Director Justin Block. "The NorthShore partnership dramatically accelerates our strategies to better serve them with respect and dignity at scale."

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A man at the Friendship Center stock room

The Friendship Center’s Executive Director Justin Block


Partners for Our Communities

Partners for Our Communities
Awarded: $116,300
Support increased access to a variety of community resources in the northwest suburbs for immigrant populations and low-income residents.

A decades-long partner of Northwest Community Healthcare (NCH), Partners for Our Communities (POC) manages, in collaboration with NCH, an all-inclusive community center serving the northwest suburbs low income, immigrant population. Name a social service and it's here: a food pantry, clothing closet, English tutoring, adult literacy, healthcare support services, early childhood and youth programs, police crisis intervention, older adult services, a full public library branch and much more. Starting in a one-bedroom apartment 30 years ago, POC was tapped by NCH to bring their bilingual, bicultural staff and expertise to the center. POC provides programming and coordinates the services of the agency partners housed in the center and NCH pays the operational costs. "How do you lift up a person to be the best they can be?" is the question that Executive Director Kathy Millin says grounds the work. "When I first started 20 years ago, I thought health was about going to the doctor. Now I know health means that you're educated, your mental health is solid, your children have opportunities, and that your life brings you joy."

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Woman in front of signage

Partners for Our Communities Executive Director Kathy Millin