The Sarah Ralston Foundation is pleased to announce the recipients of its Fall 2023 Innovative Project Support Grants. This is the second of a twice-yearly cycle of grants for qualified nonprofits. A total of $1,250,000 will be distributed to twenty nonprofits in support of their work with older Philadelphians in need.
Innovative Project Support grants range between $25,000 and $125,000 annually. “Innovative projects develop, extend, test, and evaluate approaches to challenges,” said Lynette Killen, Executive Director of the Sarah Ralston Foundation. “Innovative initiatives should be more effective than their prevailing approaches and should ultimately displace them.” Examples include projects intended to discover new and better ways of solving pervasive problems that impact older adults, seemingly small interventions that that when scaled, can have significant impact to addressing a big problem, and the projects should be managed by entrepreneurial leadership teams who are skilled at testing new ideas.
“I wish we could have funded more applicants. The twenty projects were selected after careful vetting by staff and the Innovative Project Support Committee.” Killen said. “Much thought was given to each individual application. The hope is that these models improve the quality of life for our seniors.”
The recipients of The Sarah Ralston Foundation’s 2023 Innovative Project Support Grant are:
AFHO‘s “Wisdom Village” program aims to positively impact the lives of African and Caribbean Immigrant and Refugee elders (ACIR) in the greater Philadelphia area by combatting loneliness and offering financial and other assistance, while creating a collective support system. This program is designed to emulate the village that these elders were used to in their home countries that made aging a joyful process through strong social supports, mutual assistance and compassionate care. Wisdom Village will provide weekly programming, intergenerational activities, mental health support and other assistance to 20 ACIR elders in the greater Philadelphia area during the 12-month period of this grant project.
In 2022, Caring for Friends began offering family sized, casserole style meals to meet the growing number of families who were reaching out to them for food. Currently, they are operating their warehouse only two days per week due to lack of funding, which prevents them from operating within the hub and spoke model. The “Hub and Spoke” program focuses on installing freezers on-site at agency partners’ facilities to store frozen individual and family sized, casserole style meals. The caring community freezers would allow their pantry partners, food cupboards, community-based organizations, and senior centers increased access to their “heat and eat” meals, which are critical for senior and disabled clients who can no longer cook for themselves and cannot afford to purchase protein.
CIP has been on the forefront of testing and implementing Evidence-Based Programs (EBPs) within senior center settings. CIP’s role in these projects was particularly important given that 91% of CIP’s members are African American older adults, a population that is often left out of research and program development. This venture, the soon-to-be released “Bell Age Guidance Service” (BGS), is a confidential digital service designed to measure 12 aspects of an individual’s health and wellbeing, along with their personal priorities, social determinants, and barriers to improvement. Upon completion, individuals receive evidence-based information and guidance to help them improve in the areas that matter most to them. The BGS service will be free to use and can be completed by older adults, family members, caregivers, and professionals.
By investing in mental health services, Council for Relationships (CFR) seeks to reduce healthcare costs, increase workforce productivity, and add to the overall well-being of older Americans, thereby positively impacting society. The “Older Adult Program” will enhance their capacity to provide high-quality care to more seniors through: 1) Program development 2) Psychoeducational workshops for older adults in assisted living communities, veterans organizations, and other community organizations 3) Communication and outreach through in-person and virtual programming 4) Subsidies for direct therapy services, including psychiatric evaluation fees, as needed 5) Specialized continuing education and professional development for therapists, psychiatrists, and clinically supervised interns.
Face to Face has provided a range of critical resources and programs in the Germantown community for forty years, focusing on issues in the areas of health, legal, social, and food. Two new areas of focus address mental health and housing needs. The goal of this innovative support project is to serve seniors more comprehensively at Face to Face by providing 1) A housing navigator 2) Mental health supports in both group and individual settings 3) Expanded medical/legal services. All of the services offered by Face to Face are provided at no cost to their guests.
Feast of Justice is a unique food pantry serving 2700 total households each year. Increased demand led them to seek support for their established programs, which will be scaled up. This innovative project support will benefit Philadelphia seniors who are aging in their homes through: 1) Increased access to culturally relevant, nutritious, fresh and shelf-stable foods that specifically support a senior population (e.g. nutrition drinks). 2) Expansion of their home delivery program. 3) Partnership expansion to provide monthly senior-centered programming and socialization opportunities. 4) Intentional recruitment and support of seniors for volunteer programs on site. 5) Expansion of their case management program that provides ongoing assistance to seniors.
The Health Federation of Philadelphia promotes health equity for marginalized communities by advancing access to high-quality, integrated, and comprehensive health and human services. The focus of the “Philadelphia Model” initiative is to create a scalable framework to address residential care needs for older adults diagnosed with serious mental illness (SMI) requiring 24/7 nursing and personal care (needs which have been systematically, unintentionally neglected for decades). The initiative leverages existing reimbursement strategies, entitlement programs, and best practices, including provider and staff training addressing historical trauma and systemic racism and ableism. The model is designed in compliance with all state and federal regulations. They will design and implement a high-quality evidence-based program for 48 vulnerable older adults with SMI that need long-term skilled nursing services, which will improve quality of life and health scores among participants, while increasing the knowledge, skills, and attitudes of nursing facility staff as it pertains to care of this population.
Health Promotion Council of Southeastern Pennsylvania (HPC) has a mission to prevent and manage chronic disease, especially among vulnerable populations through outreach, education, and advocacy. HPC focuses efforts on racial/ethnic minorities and vulnerable and low-income populations. “Project Significance Caregiving” (PSC) addresses an important public health issue. As Philadelphians age, their need for caregivers increases. Caregiving responsibilities can change in response to the recipient’s needs, often requiring more emotional and physical support and placing additional strain on the caregiver’s health. The primary goal of the PSC initiative is to ensure that caregivers have access to evidence-based programs and learn and implement self-care behaviors to address their own emotional, physical, and social needs. The target population for this proposal are adult caregivers who are providing care for underserved and vulnerable older adults living in the Philadelphia region.
Inglis operates programs that enable older homeowners and renters with disabilities to remain independent by staying in their homes. They conduct in-home assessments that result in modifications, including grab bars/railings, tub/shower transfer bench, accessible kitchen/bathroom features, access ramps, motorized chair lift, raised toilets, fall prevention/safety features, etc. ICS is expanding its existing Home Modifications for Independence (HMI) program through additional home modifications and their critically important Inglis Assistive Tech Solutions (IATS) services. This expansion will allow them to serve more older adults throughout Philadelphia County who are ageing in place by enhancing their independent function and improving their quality of life. These IATS integrated modifications will enable them to remain in their communities and avoid or postpone institutionalization. This program will serve renters and homeowners ages 50+ in Philadelphia County.
Intercommunity Action, Inc addresses the mental health needs of older adults, which have been exacerbated by the pandemic and an increasingly aging population. They are one of the few mental health providers equipped to provide geriatric mental health care in Philadelphia and they will be allocating this Innovative Project Support funding toward expanding their roster of services. Their staff has specific training and experience for addressing comorbid mental health, cognitive, and medical issues among seniors. Services include outpatient therapy, mobile mental health therapy, and peer counseling. The Intercommunity Action approach to preventive care to boost older adult mental wellness includes mitigating isolation, improving access to mental health support/services and reducing mental health stigma.
Jewish Family and Children’s Services of Greater Philadelphia: Many older adults struggle with stigma associated with mental health concerns, often leading to symptoms of mental and physical health conditions. Many avoid or refuse treatment altogether. As a result, many older adults are ill-equipped to navigate life transitions, including loss of social networks or loved ones, declining health, addressing hoarding disorder, and feelings of loneliness and depression. COVID-19 only intensified social isolation and the need for mental health services. They will be allocating their innovative project funding toward their Mobile Mental Health (MMH) program. The MMH program bolsters the mental health safety net for low-income older adults through the provision of evidence-based, in-home mental health interventions and group-based supports. The program aims to reduce barriers to seeking mental health services for older adults caused by stigma and mobility/access concerns while providing them with in-person support to combat social isolation. They also link older Philadelphians to support groups and networks for further connectivity.
JKPPA is a forward-looking organization that recognizes the ever-expanding role of technology in health care and daily living, with a mission to empower seniors by providing them with essential knowledge, skills, and tools to confidently navigate the digital landscape. Their “Tech for Seniors” initiative represents an unwavering commitment to improving the well-being and quality of life for members of our senior community by helping them adapt to the ever-expanding role that technology plays in daily life, especially in the area of health care. This initiative is designed to be accessible through several senior-serving organizations across the Philadelphia area. The meticulously crafted 13-week program will teach seniors the skills needed to access and effectively use digital health care resources, so they can manage their healthcare conveniently from their homes. It will also help them participate in digital social activities, which connects them with loved ones and cultivates a sense of community while promoting cognitive well-being.
Lutheran Social Mission Society serves Fishtown and the surrounding neighborhoods. In a rapidly changing community, they offer essential resources for residents hoping to age in place. Their innovative project support will pilot a neighborhood-specific heath coaching program for older adults, combining their health/wellness and food access/nutrition programs. It will also increase their capacity for member-led research and evaluation. EnhanceWellness (EW) is their evidence-based program that connects participants with a personal health coach to improve their physical, emotional, and social well-being. This new initiative will be a robust version of EW—complete with a full-time Health Coach and part-time Nutrition Coordinator focused on providing nutrition-specific coaching and linkage to food related needs. They will also implement a Research Advisory Board to evaluate EW and other programs, while building their infrastructure for member-engaged program evaluation. This will meet the needs of members, who have expressed a desire to better understand how to manage the dietary aspects of their chronic conditions, interfacing with healthcare providers, building strength, and avoiding falls.
Madlyn and Leonard Abramson Center has been committed to providing exceptional care to seniors for over 157 years and addressing inequities in senior healthcare. Their goal is to provide a cost-effective and replicable model for aging in place by advancing the role of geriatric care management as an essential and successful component of healthcare while impacting the greatest number of vulnerable seniors. This will improve health outcomes while addressing inequities for disadvantaged communities. This innovative project will involve utilizing cutting edge technology to expand the scope of their care management and Nurse Practitioner model by including an IT specialist on the team. This will infuse the model with the expertise of information technology and improve the delivery of person-centered health care for vulnerable seniors that are dealing with chronic illness/disease. The aim is to focus on healthcare access by increasing medical providers’ ability to treat patients in the home through virtual technology. By implementing innovative technology solutions on a micro level, it will influence health and quality of life while bridging the gap to lack of access to healthcare in community-based settings for vulnerable, low-income seniors.
When Mazzoni Center was founded as Lavender Health Project over 40 years ago much of their focus was on the AIDS epidemic. Over four decades, HIV has become what is no longer a death sentence, but now a chronic condition. Mazzoni Center’s patients are living longer lives and as older adults, they are facing new health challenges and additional impediments in receiving the critical services necessary to detect and address those challenges. Those impediments include the same obstacles of time availability and mobility (both physical mobility and transportation) that face many seniors. It also includes other, more specific obstacles, such as discomfort with and distrust of the medical system, often due to past trauma, that are particularly prevalent in the LGBTQ+ (and especially transgender) community. The development of a “Remote Patient Monitoring” program at Mazzoni Center will create a game-changing innovative approach in addressing the needs of the LGBTQ+ seniors in their health center practice who are facing chronic conditions. It will also help them overcome many of the obstacles that have impeded care in the past.
Philadelphia Corporation for Aging (PCA). “Nutrition in the Community” is a pilot program that will enable eligible older Philadelphians to enjoy a free, nutritious meal at participating restaurants as a complement to PCA’s traditional Senior Center Congregate Meal Program. By partnering with restaurants in the community, PCA intends to increase the availability of nutritious foods and social engagement for individuals who may not otherwise participate in congregate sites or senior centers. Participants will be able to visit a community restaurant and receive a free nutritious meal from a pre-determined menu. With the success of this pilot program, PCA hopes to work with the Pennsylvania Department of Aging to gain flexibility in congregating meal funding to sustain this innovative program. This pilot project will: (1) Increase access to healthy and nutritious meals for older adults at risk for food insecurity. (2) Address social isolation. (3) Test the feasibility of the restaurant dining model to advocate for flexibility in the use of the Older Americans Act Title III funds to support the innovative program. The pilot program will provide 600-750 meals a month over four months.
Penn Memory Center (PMC) serves people living with a dementia disorder, and their family support systems, by providing education, emotional support, customized care plans, and a vast portfolio of social and supportive programs, free of charge. This innovative project support will be used to highlight two programs from their Caring Difference suite that support older adults with dementia and their family caregivers: The Caring Collective and Time Together. Goal #1 is the delivery of Time Together services to the West Philadelphia community to support older adults experiencing dementia and their caregivers. They anticipate being able to serve 100 families in the community. Respite/companionship will be provided by students trained to serve as companions for older adults with mild-to-moderate dementia while simultaneously providing relief to their caregivers. Goal #2 is to recruit and train 100 college students to serve as volunteer companions and provide them with training, ongoing support and supervision. Goal #3 is to deliver The Caring Collective training to 50 PMC caregiver dyads (mentors and mentees). Seasoned or former caregivers receive training on providing peer-to-peer mentoring/coaching on best practices for providing support for their Caring Collective match.
Philip Jaisohn Memorial Foundation (PJMF) helps older low-income Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) seniors navigate the challenges of aging, which include isolation, structural, language and cultural barriers which confine many first-generation immigrants to low-income senior apartments, increasing their vulnerability to depression and mental health issues. The goal of the proposed innovative project is to increase access to life altering therapeutic programs that help AAPI seniors live a life with dignity and independence by addressing social isolation issues and improving their mental and physical resiliency through therapeutic group activities. Social isolation is a serious issue amongst first-generation immigrants given their low English proficiency exacerbated by cultural and structural barriers. Various wellness activities will be offered to AAPI seniors through PJMF’s LIFE Academy program, including music and creative therapy, mindfulness, fall prevention, brain health, among many others.
SeniorLAW Center‘s innovative project will expand their Housing/Homeownership Rights services project to help older homeowners in specific neighborhoods of Philadelphia retain their family’s home, prevent homelessness and enable them to age in place. Specifically, their innovative project will focus on remedying and preventing ‘tangled titles.’ Tangled titles refer to the situation when a person lives in the home that they own (or have a right to own) but their name is not on the deed/title. The initiative will focus on the areas of Philadelphia where 3.5% to 6.5% of all houses have tangled titles (Upper North and North Philadelphia, West Philadelphia, and Southwest Philadelphia). It will involve legal rights education, intake clinics, and personal planning clinics. These neighborhoods are also among the poorest neighborhoods which places them at greater risk of having titles become tangled. Requests for tangled title legal assistance have recently skyrocketed.
SOWN’s innovative project, “Connect4Health (C4H)” will aim to reduce social and health inequities for low-income, isolated older adults living in under-resourced neighborhoods in Philadelphia. Aging services providers and community organizations have programs designed to serve older people, but interventions to directly affect isolation and loneliness are limited. SOWN’s telehealth intervention does just this – their model is unique in targeting older adults at high risk of isolation. SOWN will create a pilot project to test the viability of collaborating directly with healthcare providers as a mechanism to help isolated older adults access and benefit from their telehealth group service. Their goal is for this model to be effective in enabling more older people in Philadelphia to build social connections and improve their health by forming sustained relationships and reducing social isolation. SOWN will create an integrated care model in partnership with acute and chronic health care providers in Philadelphia. They plan to collaborate with the health system and major home health providers that serve older residents of Philadelphia (e.g. Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, Penn Medicine Home Health) by providing them with their evidenced-based SOWN telehealth group model for older adults identified as “high risk” for social isolation, loneliness, and lack of social connection.
“The spring grant cycle, which funds general operating expenses for our nonprofits was a great way to launch The Sarah Ralston Foundation and establish important connections throughout the community. The Innovative Grant Cycle is another layer,” said Ben Hoyle, the newly elected president of the Sarah Ralston Foundation Board of Directors. “Supporting innovative programs and projects has the potential to open doors that lead us to new ways of serving our elders. The thought, research and creativity that goes into these programs are next-level. We anticipate some terrific results will come out of the funding.”
For more information visit www.sarahralstonfoundation.org