The Kansas Health Foundation on Tuesday announced $2 million in awards for health improvement projects across the state.
The 86 nonprofits receiving grants will use the money — up to $25,000 — to improve access to health care and promote healthy behavior.
"We believe it’s important to address health needs of at-risk populations based on factors that can influence health outcomes, such as race/ethnicity, income, geography and education level," said Steve Coen, the foundation's president and CEO. "When we support organizations doing this type of work, we’re impacting the health of residents across the state."
The foundation administers funds from a $200 million endowment with a vision of improving the health of all Kansans.
Mindy Stapleton, director of The Alley teen center in Dodge City, said 75 to 80 percent of students in the public school system there receive free or reduced-cost lunches.
Her goal with Project Teen-Safe, which will receive a $25,000 grant, is to offer free after-school activities to middle school students who are at a critical moment in their development.
"What you do now affects the rest of your life," she tells them.
Her organization began in 1997, after the death of a teenager who was an innocent bystander to a shooting by another teen. Residents formed the teen center as a safe space to hang out.
As many as 40 or 50 kids show up from 3 to 5:30 p.m. each day. They start by doing homework and receive assistance from high-schoolers.
The project brings in speakers to talk about suicide prevention and fitness experts to lead exercises. Kids prepare gifts for elderly residents who will be alone on Christmas.
Stapleton said the grant money will allow her to expand activities and buy groceries for healthy snacks. Chefs from local restaurants show the students how to make treats like frozen banana pops or "ants on a long" — an alias for raisins and peanut butter on celery.
For the fledgling Topeka Doula Project, birth instructor Juliet Swedlund plans to use her grant of $24,860 to expand her reach and form a robust calendar of fundraising events.
Her organization assists pregnant women who are disproportionately underserved in the community, including women of color and those who are incarcerated.
Swedlund launched her project last year — a doula is a nonmedical professional who provides physical, emotional and informational support during and after childbirth — and has operated on her own. This year, she assisted in 40 births. She hopes to grow that number to 50 next year and 100 in 2020.
She is bringing in professionals to train others to become doulas in February and will offer three scholarships for the training. Those interested in the project can call her at 785-380-7899.
"I was pretty excited about the grant," Swedlund said. "I started this a year and a half ago with a small idea, and to see it coming to the point of which it's getting sustainable, like I'm starting to reach goals that I had, I can see a future for it. It feels really amazing."
Other grantees include public school districts, universities and the Kansas State Department of Education, which will receive $25,000 to provide training to organizations and improve mentoring for at-risk youths.
The Hays-based High Plains Mental Health Center will use $20,550 to provide mental health training to emergency responders in 20 northwest Kansas counties. In Hutchinson, the Trinity Methodist Church will get $25,000 to help track services for students with barriers to completing high school.
A full list of awards is available at kansashealth.org.