Just one week after the African American Health Coalition's free exercise program was shut down because of lack of money, funding has been restored. Corliss McKeever, the coalition's director, announced Friday that Providence Health Systems has stepped in with a $35,000 gift to ensure the program's survival until the end of the year.
"The CEO of Providence (Russ Danielson) saw the value of this program," said McKeever about a program that has the involvement of nearly 20 percent of Portland's African American community.
"We were impressed by the deep reach and the positive effect this program has had on the community, and we wanted to help it continue," Danielson said.
The coalition has been looking for sources of additional funding after they lost a $850,000 federal grant - half of its annual budget. Although it may sound like a catastrophic loss, McKeever says it's a routine adjustment that nonprofits learn to deal with.
"Funding comes and goes all the time," she said, adding she expects to face this same predicament the next time a grant runs out.
"For 10 years, we touched a lot of people with no funding," she said.
Participants in the free exercise program can pick up a new card from the coalition's office at 2800 N. Vancouver Ave. suite 100.
McKeever praised Providence for seeing the value in a progam that has been so successful in incorporating exercise in the routines of so many African Americans.
"We've dispelled the myth that African Americans aren't concerned about their health," she said, emphasizing the success of culturally specific outreach programs to help lessen the racial health disparity.
In addition to the funding, Providence will begin working with the coalition to form a group of people interested in finding long-term funding solutions for the coalition. McKeever says it's too early to know who might be a part of such a think tank. McKeever and other members of the coalition are actively seeking to find alternative grants that will help fund the coalition in the future - which McKeever says is looking bright.
"I see the coalition moving well into the future," she said.
On Oct. 19, the coalition will hold their annual Health Disparities Conference at the Ambridge Event Center, 300 N.E. Multnomah St. The event will feature a keynote address by former U.S. Assistant Surgeon General Dr. Marilyn Gaston, the second African American woman to serve in such a capacity. Dr. Gaston is one of the foremost experts on Sickle Cell Anemia and has made efforts in trying to understand the health disparity that exists for African American women. Dr. Gaston served under Surgeon General Dr. David Thatcher, who served from 1998 to 2002. The next day the coalition will hold the African American Wellness Village, a family event that is open to community members, health care organizations and exhibitors, offering free health screenings, education and other activities. Visit www.aahc-portland.org for more information. The African American Wellness Village: Saturday Oct. 20 at the Blazers Boys and Girls Club, 5250 N.E. Martin Luther King Boulevard from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.