Healdsburg nonprofit doubles health equity
Vaccination clinics. Mental health awareness. Take care of the homeless. Grants for grassroots groups.
In Healdsburg, a non-profit organization spent most of the COVID-19 pandemic managing all of these important programs.
The 20-year-old nonprofit Healthcare Foundation of Northern Sonoma County is now at the center of a series of collaborations with healthcare providers across northern Sonoma County – partnerships that have a major impact on those county residents most in need of services. .
This new approach is all by design; this is part of a new strategy from Kim Bender, the organization’s new executive director. Bender joined the organization in March 2020, with a plan to focus healthcare philanthropy on those who need it most and to channel efforts towards access to healthcare and mental health.
In its first year, that meant launching an emergency fund to support nonprofits on the front lines of the pandemic. For Bender, the goal is simple: to end health inequalities in Sonoma County.
“So many people in our region have great fortune and great wealth. Others don’t have the same resources and find themselves struggling, sometimes with life-threatening conditions and situations, ”said Bender, from Los Angeles. “The pandemic has brought to light the dramatic health disparities in our region. We must intentionally focus our efforts on people who do not have as many; people on the margins of our society who need better access to mental health services and health care.
Rotate with a goal
Bender has long focused on the need for social justice, racial justice and equal access to services.
She came to GLIDE’s Healthcare Foundation, a nationally recognized center for social justice in the Tenderloin neighborhood of San Francisco. As the organization’s Senior Director of Development, Bender has raised funds to tackle homelessness, tackle systemic injustices, create pathways out of poverty and crisis, and transform lives. She described the experience as one of the most “fulfilling” of her life.
She sought to replicate the importance and meaning of this experience when she arrived in Healdsburg.
For starters, in addition to the foundation’s strategic grants, she launched a COVID-19 emergency grants program that has distributed a total of $ 245,000 through the organization’s Emergency Health Fund since the start of the pandemic.
Bender has also transformed the way the organization gives money, in line with a trend in the philanthropy world towards “trust-based” support that has accelerated during the pandemic. Today, under Bender’s leadership, emergency funds are distributed without restrictions, allowing grant recipients to determine where grant dollars are spent. Bender has also championed inclusion and diversity for the organization’s board – a push that has resulted in three new board members who identify as Latinx. The change means that 27% of the 15 council members are people of color, better representing the demographics of the county as a whole.
“Already their voices are changing the conversation,” Bender said.
Dr Michael Valdovinos, who is one of these new board members, said he was honored to be charged with helping to steer the organization in a new direction.
Valdovinos specializes in mental health, and he noted that the Healthcare Foundation’s new approach should facilitate greater equity in the way mental health services (and health services in general) are administered across the county. .
“What I love (the Healthcare Foundation) is that we are relying on the voices of the community to set the tone rather than having a group of people in an ivory tower to strategize,” said Valdovinos, who grew up in Guerneville. “We are well positioned in the communities, and it is a function to have a long standing record to have a critical ear and boots on the ground. “
Do a good job
Since the start of the pandemic, the Healthcare Foundation has innovated to continue providing essential care to its constituents.
In many cases, these efforts revolve around collaborations with local health care providers.
Without a doubt, the biggest push has been to help fight the disease in the form of vaccination clinics. Since February, the Healthcare Foundation has participated in a coalition to coordinate clinics that have vaccinated tens of thousands of people, from Cloverdale to Windsor.
“The credit for this historic effort does not belong to any organization, but to the partnerships and collaborations that were required to get the job done,” said Bender.
Bender mentioned four organizations that have worked tirelessly to improve public health over the past year: Alliance Medical Center, Alexander Valley Healthcare, Corazón Healdsburg, and La Familia Sana. She added that all of these organizations were recipients of Emergency Healthcare Foundation grants.