POISE Foundation receives $250,000 in grants from Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield in support of initiatives aimed at strengthening Black community

PITTSBURGH (Aug. 14, 2014) – In support of programming and activities that re-assert “family” as a core institution in the re-development of Pittsburgh’s Black community, Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield provided $250,000 in grants that will benefit POISE Foundation’s Strengthening Black Families (SBF) and Sustainable Black Community (SBC) initiatives.

Black families living in the Greater Pittsburgh Region experience significant disparities in the areas of health, education, employment, family structure and income compared to white families, as evidenced in a 2007 report on racial disparities by the University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Race and Social Problems (CRSP). According to a 2012 PittsburghTODAY Quality of Life Survey, the rate of African Americans in our community living without health insurance is 60 percent higher than other racial groups, and unemployment rates are twice the rate of other demographics.

Designed to reduce the structural, political and economic barriers that bind Pittsburgh’s Black community, POISE believes that the SBF and SBC initiatives will ultimately strengthen and sustain a higher quality of life in the communities where these families live.

“The generous investment from Highmark, coupled with their commitment as a community partner, supports the Foundation in our goal to be a more proactive grantmaker and to build policy knowledge and capacity within the Pittsburgh community,” said Mark Lewis, President and CEO at POISE Foundation. “We realize the importance of new and transformative approaches to impact community change.”

Highmark’s initial $100,000 investment in 2012, positioned POISE to launch this new grantmaking strategy focused on strengthening Black families. The most recent $150,000 installment of the grant enables POISE to provide program management and support, in addition to technical support and assistance to four local organizations whose programming and activities lift the region’s Black families.

The four programs receiving funding support are:

  • Amachi Pittsburgh’s Family Strengthening Project Plan, which will conduct listening sessions, review literature and proven approaches to determine critical issues and support needs alongside family members experiencing parental incarceration.

  • Melting Pot Ministries’ Family Konnections Program, which is a comprehensive strategy to increase parent involvement in their children’s lives through a series of psycho-education and psychodrama sessions titled, “Family Matters.” Participating families will create a family communication tool kit and will receive ongoing support during home visits and quarterly multi-family gatherings.

  • The Center that C.A.R.E.S. Family Time Program, which is a family-centered series designed to engage family members in joint activities that encourage positive interaction and develop skills that support healthier family relationships.

  • University of Pittsburgh’s School of Medicine-Department of Family Medicine’s Teen Mother-Young Father Program, with the goal to incorporate young fathers into already established activities for teen mothers that encourage the parents to improve communication and problem solving skills to empower them in decision making and interacting with the people and systems around them.

“POISE Foundation continues to play an integral role in supporting Pittsburgh’s Black community, and we are pleased to have them as a partner as they make a difference in the lives of so many,” said Evan Frazier, senior vice president of community affairs at Highmark Health. “This investment is an extension of Highmark’s longstanding and continued commitment to assisting the underserved in our communities.”

The Foundation’s role as a community convener will increase as it encourages community reflection, learning and dialogue about the “Black Family” in Pittsburgh through these initiatives.

“The ‘Family’ is the first and most important institution we have. Health, education, morals, values and work ethics are influenced first and foremost by our families,” said Karris Jackson, vice president of programs at POISE Foundation. “It is to this end, that we believe strong families are essential for building a strong community.”

About POISE Foundation

POISE Foundation is a community foundation focused on assisting the Pittsburgh Region’s Black community in achieving self-sustaining practices, through leadership, collective giving, grantmaking and advocacy. Created in 1980, POISE was the first public foundation in Pennsylvania created and managed by African Americans. For 32 years, the Foundation has provided financial support to nonprofits and advice to many serving Pittsburgh’s Black community. For more information about POISE Foundation and the Strengthening Black Families and Sustainable Black Community initiatives, visit www.poisefoundation.org.

About Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield

Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield serves approximately 3.2 million members through the company’s health care benefits business and employs more than 4,000 people in western Pennsylvania. Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, an association of independent Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies. For more information, visit www.highmark.com.


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