Healthcare Initiative Foundation Awards Grant for Healthy Food Access Program in Takoma Park and Long Branch

The Healthcare Initiative Foundation (HIF) has awarded a $45,000 planning grant to Community Health and Empowerment through Education and Research (CHEER). HIF’s mission is to support organizations that offer solutions to improve the quality and delivery of healthcare for residents of Montgomery County.

CHEER is the convener of Healthy Long Branch, a consortia of health care providers, social service providers and community groups in Takoma Park and Long Branch.  Healthy Long Branch brings partners from multiple sectors, such as business, nonprofit, health care, housing and community groups, together to help everyone in the community achieve excellent health.

The grant will go toward developing the Healthy Food Access Prescription program for residents in the Takoma Park and Long Branch communities with chronic health conditions that can be improved upon through good nutrition.

In a recent major study, the Montgomery County’s Food Council Food Access Working Group (FAWG) reported that Long Branch is a community of low access to healthy food.  The conditions affecting many people in the community include the high cost of living and low wages, limited transportation, limited time to shop, and limited access to kitchen facilities.  As a consequence, many residents are experiencing poor health outcomes and have the highest hospital utilization rates for uncontrolled diabetes in the county. Long Branch, however, is not a food desert as there are healthy food sources and available health and wellness resources. What is needed is a stronger and deeper network of relationships capable of overcoming the barriers that prevent people from using healthy food.

The Healthy Food Access Program being designed would have community health workers with relevant cultural and linguistic knowledge provide residents with fresh fruits and vegetables, health and cooking education, and support to help participants adopt and sustain healthy eating and living practices. Strong connections will be developed between the health providers, community health workers, and food providers to evaluate health outcomes and ensure access to healthy food.

The HIF grant complements the recent Trinity Health Transforming Communities Initiative award of $500,000 per year for up to 5 years to Institute for Public Health Innovation, which supports policies, systems, and an environment that reduces obesity. Two of the targeted communities are Takoma Park and Long Branch.

For more information, contact Bruce Baker at 301-589-3633 or

Healthcare Initiative Foundation Awards Grant for Scholarships to Support Students in Nursing & Social Work Programs at the Universities at Shady Grove (USG)

The Healthcare Initiative Foundation of Montgomery County awarded The Universities at Shady Grove (USG) a $648,900 grant, which will fund 112 scholarships over five years to support students at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) Social Work program and the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) School of Nursing. A primary goal of the Healthcare Initiative Foundation is to enhance and expand the workforce development in the healthcare field within Montgomery County. The scholarships will provide needed pathways to the degrees and careers that will directly power tomorrow’s healthcare workforce. 

In addition, the grant will support four innovative initiatives to help prepare the scholarship recipients to meet the health and wellness needs of the community and connect them with future employers in their professional fields. The first initiative will help students learn interdisciplinary practices, rules, and responsibilities, and gain experience at the Mercy Health Clinic. The Mercy Health Clinic is a free, not-for-profit, non-sectarian, community based primary healthcare provider serving uninsured, low-income adult residents in Montgomery County. The second initiative will place students in clinic rotations at Montgomery County non-profits in the healthcare field which will enhance the students’ knowledge of community health and develop a greater understanding of the community.

In an effort to respond to the pressing need for culturally competent social workers with experience serving children under the age of 12, social work scholarship recipients will have the opportunity to complete their field placements with non-profits serving this age group. The third initiative will establish a Bilingual Writing Mentor Program to support the academic success of 20 students whose first language is not English.

Philanthropy Fellows in the Field: Learning about the importance of going ‘beyond dollars’

By Catherine Oidtman
Philanthropy Fellow at the Healthcare Initiative Foundation
Catherine is a joint Bachelor’s and Master’s student at the University of Maryland. She is working toward a BA in anthropology and an MPP degree focused in health policy.

I am a Philanthropy Fellow at the Healthcare Initiative Foundation (HIF), an organization dedicated to supporting nonprofit organizations that offer solutions to improving the quality and delivery of healthcare for residents in Montgomery County. Post-graduation I am interested in working with philanthropy and nonprofits on the creation of fully integrated healthy communities policies. When I first heard about the Philanthropy Fellows program, I thought it was the perfect combination of gaining experience in the nonprofit community and learning how philanthropy works in action. Little did I realize just how much I would actually learn through this experience.

When I began my fellowship, I anticipated learning how a foundation operates and its role in the nonprofit community. However, I quickly learned that HIF goes above and beyond just grantmaking. Crystal Carr Townsend, president of the foundation, and the Board of Trustees care about creating a sustainable, high-quality, comprehensive and integrative healthcare system for all residents of Montgomery County. HIF works collaboratively with organizations to establish integrative care that takes into consideration social determinants and the upstream issues (housing, safety, discrimination, access to healthy foods, education, poverty, freedom from violence, environment, etc.) that impact population health outcomes. While HIF is focused on providing comprehensive healthcare, Crystal takes a leadership role in inspiring other entities to collaborate, because many healthcare issues in Montgomery County are impacted by poverty and other social inequities.

My fellowship at HIF has given me countless opportunities that go far beyond just learning about the work of a foundation. I have helped to launch a mentoring program between nursing, pharmacy and social work students at the Universities at Shady Grove and professionals in the community, and I have also gained experience attending professional meetings and Board of Trustee meetings. By accompanying Crystal on site visits, I have seen firsthand how empathy and human connection are critical to addressing complex health issues and to making a positive social impact. This is an inspiring message that I will carry with me as I move forward professionally working in health policy.

I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to work with HIF as a Philanthropy Fellow through UMD’s partnership with the Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers. This experience has progressed my professional career through enhanced connections in the community and enriched knowledge about foundations, nonprofits, and the importance of integrative healthcare initiatives.