The year started off with clever quips about 2020 being a year for vision, with promises of perfect sight, focus, and precision.
Goals were going to be crushed.
We’ve since found ourselves ending the year with a smoldering pile of tired, trying phrases like: “during these challenging/difficult/uncertain/unprecedented times;” we’ve had to pivot;” and “stay safe.”
And, with souls that have been crushed.
Many have lost so much these past twelve months that at once dragged on and flew by. Dear, precious things like the lives, the hugs, the touch of loved ones; much anticipated memories made during milestones like weddings or graduations; the sound of laughter of friends and family gathered around a table; and perhaps most tragic, the loss of hope.
Dozens of studies, statements, and stories have been written about how the virus has (re)exposed an even deeper, more sinister disease that has plagued our country for much longer than COVID-19: racism. In Ohio, this prompted Govenor DeWine to convene a group, the Minority Health Strike Force, who developed a Blueprint which describes, “the immediate action necessary to address COVID-19 and its disproportionate impact on Ohioans of color.” Locally, institutions and organizations, HCP and many of our partners included among them, have been working diligently over the years to improve health outcomes and reduce health disparities due to the impacts of structural or institutional racism. This year, however, provided the necessary push to declare racism and racial health disparities as a public health emergency. This important first step has enabled organizations to assign resources to identify strategies that recognize racism as a root cause for health disparities and that will improve conditions, systems, and institutions to reduce those disparities.
The journey towards the end of COVID-19 and towards the beginning of health equity is long but at least we’ve gotten started.
During these darker days, I am reminded of Emily Dickinson, who said that “Hope is the thing with feathers:”
“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –
And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –
I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet – never – in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of me.
As we close out a year that has been described as everything from a surging storm to a raging dumpster fire, I’d like to lift up the little Bird, or more accurately the little flock of Birds, that has kept so many warm and hopeful when both were hard to come by. That flock are the partners that make up the Healthy Community Partnership.
For our final Moment of the Month for 2020, I’d like to join the choir singing the praises of Healthy Community Partnership members for their commitments to each other, to our shared mission, and to our community. Throughout the year, some of the incredible initiatives spearheaded or supported by Partnership members were captured as Moments of the Month and Collab-blogs on the Partnership’s website. Several Partnership members were recognized by the Community Foundation of the Mahoning Valley’s Fund for Women and Girls as Women Warriors for their fearlessness in the face of uncertainty. Other Partners were recognized by the Association of Fundraising Professionals-Mahoning & Shenango Chapter as COVID-19 Heroes.
As we close out, wrap up, and look back, I’d like to share some of the celebrations, accomplishments, and memories made this year as expressed by the Partnership members themselves.
Though the date will change on January 1, much will be carried with us into the new year, fortunately or unfortunately. I am hopeful for a new year with new opportunities, new challenges, and new relationships. And, I am hopeful that Hope, the thing with feathers, will continue to sing no matter how hard or cold the wind may blow.
2020 HCP Partner Reflections & Celebrations
HCP Partners offer some of their thoughts and highlights from the past year and hopes and aspirations for the new year ahead.
In spite of all the tragedy and turmoil, HCP Partners have…
Showed Up and Spoke Out
“HCP members kept going, kept working together and supporting each other. Simply showing up during these challenging times means a lot.”
- Cities of Youngstown and Warren unanimously passed resolutions recognizing racism as a public health emergency
- Mahoning and Trumbull County Public Health leaders continuing to spearhead efforts to respond to the declaration and develop an action plan to reduce health disparities
- HCP and CFMV also issued public statements recognizing the harm racism inflicts on our communities and committing ourselves to keeping racial equity at the center of our work.
- Out of the chaos, new initiatives and partnerships were created
- The Mercy Health Fruit & Vegetable Prescription Program worked with Lake to River Food Co-Op and Cultivate Cafe to create the Fresh Produce Box. Fruit and Vegetable Rx patients could pick up their boxes using a drive thru model as well as delivery. All told, the partnership was able to provide 2,726 Fresh Produce Boxes to the community, including 687 deliveries, which were made possible through new partnerships with the Mahoning Valley Retired Senior Volunteer Program and SCOPE.
- ACTION also developed a partnership with Lake to River Food Co-Op and Cultivate Cafe for two food access programs: Grab ‘n Go meals for seniors and Snack ‘n Snatch meals for youth. Grab ‘n Go delivered hundreds of meals to seniors and other adults who are vulnerable to the COVID-19 virus. The Snack ‘n Snatch program proved hundreds of quick, healthy snacks to children while they were out of school over the summer months. Between the two programs, ACTION facilitated the delivery of over 11,000 meals to residents in need.
- WRTA was recognized by the Ohio Department of Transportation as Transit System of the Year for the agency’s incredible work to expand access to transportation across the region.
- During the pandemic, WRTA implemented free fares since March and recently announced the free fares will continue through June 2021.
- During the pandemic, we want to make it as easy as possible for Valley residents to use the bus to get to their jobs, essential grocery shopping and medical appointments.
- Discovering new ways to engage with people through technology (which is not without its challenges!)
- OSU Extension and Mercy Health’s Stepping Out program quickly adapted their programming for a virtual venue.
- We felt an extreme and sudden sense of loss in the beginning. But, OSU was able to transition to a virtual format and get resources out to state offices and community partners very quickly. Our priority, as always, was to keep in contact with families—send resources through emails, texts. We launched virtual programming three years early—Mahoning County was first in the state to offer virtual nutrition programming. The virtual format actually provides better resources to Spanish-speaking populations and are able to meet people where they are—right at home.
“It’s amazing we’ve been able to continue working even during these significant challenges and with less physical contact.”
- Several efforts sprung up to support seniors by offering direct assistance to address two critical needs: food and friendship.
- Senior Support Action Group started as a temporary response to the pandemic, but the response has been so supportive that it is continuing as a long term effort and expanding service into Columbiana County.
- Seniors Offering Services is a new initiative lead by MYCAP and ACTION. The SOS program offers virtual engagement opportunities with programs like cooking classes, presentations, and workshops.
- “Through virtual formats, we are able to reach people from all over the country, even internationally. These programs give people something to look forward to and a way to connect and interact with people.”
- Many partners received significant support from our local funders—the Community Foundation of the Mahoning Valley, The Raymond J. Wean Foundation and the Youngstown Foundation—through the collaborative Community Response Fund to ensure families had access to healthy foods during the pandemic
- Renewal of Healthy Food Access Coordinators and expansion of healthy community (convenience) store initiatives.
- In Trumbull County, the healthy community store initiative expanded into Lil Mac’s in Warren and Cottage Grove in Niles. Both expansions include a partnership with Flying High Inc.’s GROW Urban Farm to provide fresh, locally grown foods to customers.
- Several partners received state and federal grant awards during this time to increase food access, expand transportation, and promote safe, outdoor recreation.
|City of Youngstown Department of Parks and Recreation
||Share Your Smile Not Your Space Youngstown
||Ohio Department of Parks and Recreation
|McKelvey Lake Park
||Ohio Department of Natural Resources
|Western Reserve Transit Agency
||Market Street Transportation Oriented Development Study
||US Department of Transportation
|Expand Coordinated Transportation
||Ohio Department of Transportation
|Autonomous Shuttle Development
||Federal Transit Administration
|Expansion of Warren/Trumbull County Service and Other Improvements
||Ohio Department of Transportation
|Trumbull Neighborhood Partnership
||Community Food Projects
||United States Department of Agriculture
|Healthy Community Store Expansion
||Healthy Food for Ohio
Continued Learning and Growing Together
“I would say the accomplishment I’m most excited about this year is how much I have LEARNED about food systems, about all the work that all of you are doing to ensure good health in our community, Your dedication and creativity has been inspiring!”
- Everyone has increased their knowledge of technology, whether they wanted to or not.
- Many organizations have hosted free webinars.
- As more routine activities moved online, essential services needed to adapt, as well. More exploration about how to keep pilot programs line using SNAP online for grocery shopping, and can this be expanded to more retailers, especially local ones, or to include restaurants in the future.
- Remembering to take care of ourselves as we take care of others.
- We need to to pause and breathe when we have to and recognize our limitations.
- Trauma is real. We must recognize how important it is to help people, and we’re all working through trauma in some way.
- Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good.
- Trust and relationships are the most important investments of our time and energy. Trust partners more that they will follow through. It really is about relationships, who will stand with you and carry the struggle with you.
- “As individuals that we are capable of adapting to and creating great change. Being able to do that as people means we all can change the world around us. You have always had that capability and will continue to do so.”
Partner Spotlight—Mahoning Valley Community Health Heroes
Partner Spotlight—Lake to River Food Cooperative
Moment of the Month—Trumbull County Partners Transform Convenience Stores to Community Stores
Partner Spotlight—Akron Children’s Mahoning Valley Community Outreach: Bill McMahon & Francine McBride
Collab-blog—Creative Crosswalks Take Shape
Moment of the Month—Active Transportation Goes Offroad and Online
Partner Spotlight—HCP Network Coordinator: Robin Perry
Moment of the Month—A New Day for WRTA
Partner Spotlight—Mahoning Valley Farmers Market Managers
Collab-blog—Walk On: The Mahoning Valley’s Journey towards Becoming a More Walkable Community
Special Publications—HCP Releases Where Sidewalks End Digital Digest
Moment of the Month—Putting Food Access Resources on the Map
Partner Spotlight—From Green to Great: Resident Leaders Improving Neighborhoods One Greenspace at a Time
Moment of the Month—Mahoning Valley Leaders Recognize Racism as a Public Health Crisis
Partner Spotlight—Trumbull County Food Access Coordinator, Christian Bennett-Mosley | Mahoning County Food Access Coordinator, Sophia Buggs
Collab-blog—Collaboration in a Time of Crisis: Thinking Outside the Box
Special Publications—Healthy Community Partnership-Mahoning Valley Message Condemning Impacts of Racism on Health & Commitment to Working Together to Improve Health Equity in the Mahoning Valley
Moment of the Month—In Praise of Our Parks
Partner Spotlight—Community Ride Leaders: Jenna Amerine & Ira Cross | Kelan Bilal & Justin Mondok
Collab-blog—Celebrating Bicycling in Warren: A Cycle in Evolution
Special Publication—Director’s Note: Caring about Nature, Neighborhoods, and Our Neighbors During COVID-19
Moment of the Month—Partners Help Families Access Food during COVID-19 Crisis
Partner Spotlight—Community Foundation of the Mahoning Valley
HCP Publishes 2019 Year in Review
HCP Responds to COVID-19 Crisis
Share Your Smile Not Your Space Launches