February 19, 2019
Comm. Foundation of Western Mass. Funds Innovative Projects

January 23, 2018 — The Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts, based in Springfield, last week announced it awarded $334,350 to three area nonprofits that have developed innovative, scalable projects to address regional needs relating to education, hunger, and housing.

In 2016, the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts awarded planning grants to seven organizations and asked them to "develop game-changing approaches to a community issue."

The three winning grantees, selected "as the most innovative and able to alter existing systems to create change," will use the new funding to implement their proposals.

Katie Allan Zobel, foundation president and CEO, said, “It’s been an honor to watch our grantees go through the process of piloting and developing their ideas, and we’re excited to see the impact their work will have. These are just the kinds of projects that many of our fund holders love to support – projects that see problems from a different perspective and create a thoughtful plan to intervene and make a difference.”

Receiving the new round of funding were:
  • Five Colleges Incorporated, an Amherst-based educational consortium established in 1965 to promote the broad educational and cultural objectives of Amherst College, Hampshire College, Mount Holyoke College, Smith College, and the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, received $133,000 to address the lack of diversity in the region’s teaching corps.

    Five Colleges has identified paraprofessionals (teaching assistants and aides) of diverse backgrounds as an ideal source of future teachers, and will provide resources, structure, tutoring, and advocacy to ensure that 20 paraprofessionals attain licensure and move into teaching positions in the Hampshire and Hampden Counties schools by the year 2020.

  • The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts in Hatfield, which distributes food to meal sites, food pantries, shelters, and other social service programs in four counties, received $129,250 for a proactive intervention that will bring together medical professionals, social service providers, and the Food Bank’s expertise to reduce food insecurity.

    The project will support medical providers at the Holyoke Health Center and another rural health center to conduct food insecurity screenings every six months for all their patients. Based on results, care providers will be able to make referrals to food assistance and other interventions. The project will collect data on causes of food insecurity in the region and help raise awareness about the devastating impacts of hunger.

  • Pioneer Valley Habitat for Humanity, based in Florence, which seeks to create stability and self-reliance through affordable homeownership in Hampshire and Franklin Counties, received $72,100 to address how homeownership is becoming out of reach for Americans who earn the median income or less.

    To disrupt the cycle of fewer people being able to exit poverty or sustain a middle-class lifestyle, Habitat will seek to demonstrate the successful building and sale of small, affordable, energy efficient homes (500 to 1,000 square feet) priced around $50,000. Through public forums and outreach, the project will incorporate feedback from low-income potential homeowners and challenge existing zoning restrictions, lending practices and building strategies that create barriers to affordable homeownership in the region.

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