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community health fund


Village Keepers: African American Family Wellness Center

African American family wellness

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2020), the rate of illness for African Americans is 20% higher than all other population groups in Contra Costa County, due in large part to the Black community having experienced historical neglect, maltreatment, and abuse from traditional medical and mental health systems. That history can make many African Americans suspicious and hesitant about getting medical treatment until their conditions are acute or at end of stage.

With these concerns in mind, in January 2022 the CHF awarded Village Keepers a $35,000 Executive Director discretionary grant to contract with Emerald HPC International Consulting to develop a business plan for an African American Family Wellness Center (AAFWC). Village Keeper’s vision was to establish and coordinate a network of Black organizations, nonprofit partners, individuals and allies dedicated to ensuring the safety, health, education, economic and emotional stability of Black families impacted by poverty and systemic racism in East and Central Contra Costa County. In Antioch alone, there are over 20,000 African American residents, representing 20% of the city’s population; one out of five are living below the poverty level. Village Keepers expects the AAFWC to reduce historical barriers and increase access to quality and culturally responsive health care and mental health services for these families and others affected by poverty and systemic racism in East and Central Contra Costa County.

During the planning process, Village Keepers was able to open the AAFWC in Antioch for limited services on a part-time schedule and was able to serve 50 residents, using Village Keeper’s own funds and a grant from the Antioch Community Foundation. In July 2022, the CHF awarded Village Keepers a six-month $35,000 grant to implement Phase I of the business plan that so the organization could continue building its services, while strengthening its infrastructure.

While the organization made steady progress toward its initial goals, in September 2022, Village Keepers and other nonprofit partners lost their program space when the City of Antioch took over the building. Because the alternative, rent-free space offered was not conducive to Village Keepers’ needs, they pivoted quickly, offering pop-up services at local churches and community settings as they search for a new facility. Achievements to-date include:

  • 120 clients served – 95 adults and 25 youth
  • Pop-Up services provided at:

o   Unity in the Community Resource Fair – Bay Point

o   African American Baby Shower – Antioch

o   National Neighborhood Night Out – Antioch

  • Partnering with Upward Bound and Antioch High School to provide health and mental health education classes for 25 youth
  • Partnering with Love a Mission Child Homeless Shelter to provide weekly psychoeducation classes for 15 adults - ongoing
  • Working on a memorandum of understanding with Opportunity Junction to establish an Administrative Intern program. It will go into place once Village Keepers secures a permanent facility

The CHF has now awarded Village Keepers $80,000 for its twelve-month, Phase II business plan that will allow the organization to continue building its program services for East County residents, while strengthening its infrastructure in order to move into Phase III program implementation at a measured pace. As the CHF’s first opportunity to support a start-up operation, we are learning along the way with our partners as they build this program that aligns with the CHF’s commitment to racial equity. Key activities will include:

  • Contracting with Emerald HPC International for the purpose of strengthening the organization’s infrastructure, including:

o   Executive coaching and governance trainings

o   Identifying and establishing a new office location

o   Building staff capacity

o   Continuing to build a Community Advisory Board

o   Increasing formal nonprofit partnerships

o   Ensuring financial stability

  • Providing services to 300 clients via pop-up, and eventually, the new office. Services to include:

o   Medical screenings

o   Referrals to community resources

o   Offering 3 African American empowerment symposiums in partnership with East County churches

o   Creating four health/mental health videos geared toward children and teens for showings in partnership with community organizations, including churches, schools, youth clubs and civic groups.