Comm. Foundation of Western Massachusetts Grants $333K

February 19, 2019 — The Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts in Springfield last week announced it has awarded $333,000 to three nonprofit organizations to support development of innovative solutions for issues relating to housing, hunger, and educator diversity.

The funds came from the Innovation Grant Program of the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts, launched in 2016 to encourage nonprofits to develop and execute novel ideas in partnership with other entities and allow organizations to construct inventive solutions with measurable impact.

Receiving the grants were the following:
  • Five Colleges in Amherst, a consortium comprised of Amherst College, Hampshire College, Mount Holyoke College, Smith College, and the University of Massachusetts-Amherst that promotes inclusive collaboration, was awarded $142,000 to continue to develop the "Paradigm Shift" initiative, which focuses on creating a more diverse teacher workforce in western Massachusetts by helping para-educators of color overcome obstacles to obtaining licensure to become teachers in area schools.

    The 25-member organizations that make up the Paradigm Shift Coalition have laid the groundwork for breaking down barriers that para-educators face in becoming licensed teachers, including identifying the steps involved in obtaining licensure, helping enroll para-educators in courses in local colleges, and providing mentoring and tutoring for MTEL tests. The coalition has also been able to offset costs associated with these steps to help make it affordable. During the first year, the consortium recruited 13 para-educators from Holyoke, Springfield, and Amherst to take part in the initiative.

  • The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts in Hatfield, which distributes food to meal sites, food pantries, shelters, and other social service programs in Berkshire, Franklin, Hampden, and Hampshire Counties , was awarded $97,000 for the second year of its Food Insecurity Screening and Referral Initiative, which conducts and tracks food insecurity screening and social service referrals at the Holyoke Health Center and their Chicopee location. The Food Bank is actively working to expand this work to other health centers in the region.

  • Pioneer Valley Habitat for Humanity in Florence, which builds homes in Hampshire and Franklin Counties, was awarded $94,000 for the second year of its "Big Enough: The Small Home Revolution in Western Mass" initiative, which aims to launch more individuals and families into the middle class by empowering them to become first-time owners of small (less than 1000 square feet), simple, affordable, energy-efficient homes that they ideally could purchase in the $50,000 price range.