Local group vying for $350,000 to improve Austin

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11 p.m. Friday is the deadline to cast your vote for PCC Community Wellness Center, which is competing for a three-year, $350,000 grant.

The Austin health clinic is one of three Chicago area finalists vying for the grant as part of the Humana Community Benefits Program, sponsored by the Humana Foundation. The philanthropic program aims to improve the health of the communities the company serves, said Cathryn Donaldson, media relations manager for Humana.

“We want to provide that transformational impact on the communities and the nonprofits themselves,” Donaldson said. “We want to look at the promotion of healthy behavior and the well being of the community.”

Family Alliance Inc. in Woodstock and the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance in Chicago are the other finalists.

As of Wednesday night, the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance had nearly 5,200 votes, while Family Alliance had about 4,300 and PCC roughly 2,000.

If awarded the grant, PCC will use the money to build a farm in Austin that will provide produce, health education and job opportunities, said Jinnie Hoggarth, development coordinator for PCC.

The farm will be built on a vacant lot that was purchased two years ago and sits across the street from the PCC Austin Family Health Center at 5425 W. Lake St.

PCC wants to use the money as part of an ongoing effort to provide a solution to the community’s food desert and alleviate the associated health issues, such as obesity and diabetes, Hoggarth said.

In 2010, PCC started a weekly summer produce market to provide healthy and affordable foods in the community.

“We bought the vacant lot with the intention of hopefully building a farm, so when we saw the grant opportunity, it was a perfect time to grow our vision for providing access to fresh fruits and vegetables in the community,” she said.

To help maintain and sustain the farm, PCC plans to collaborate with Windy City Harvest, an urban agriculture initiative of the Chicago Botanic Garden.

PCC will also provide monthly gardening workshops, incorporating healthy lifestyle and nutrition. It also plans to award two scholarships to community members who are invested in the farm, and PCC will participate in the Windy City Harvest’s nine-month certificate program.

Although the Humana Foundation doesn’t have set criteria for the grant competition, it’s looking for proposals that focus on physical activity and sports; nutrition; inter-generational, peer-to-peer mentorships; or coaching of at-risk youth, among other things, Donaldson said.

In past years, nonprofits were awarded a one-time $100,000 charitable grant, but this year. This time around, the winner will receive $200,000 the first year, $100,000 the second year and $50,000 in the final year.

Also new this year is the community voting, which will account for 20 percent of the final score. Next week community leaders who are involved with health and wellness communities or hospitals will judge each nonprofit’s presentation.

The winner of the grant will be announced in September.

Since launching the program in Chicago in 2003, Humana has awarded $8 million to 11 nonprofits nationwide.

To vote, click here.


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