Once known as the St. Joseph Charitable Fund, the Sisters Health Foundation has been serving the Mid-Ohio Valley region since 1996. By providing grants to a multitude of nonprofits throughout the region, the foundation has been able to improve the well-being and overall health of 11 counties: three in Ohio and eight in West Virginia.
Next year, the Sisters Health Foundation will be celebrating 25 years. Over the years, the foundation has focused on three priority areas: mental health and addiction, healthy eating and active living, and thriving neighborhoods.
“A lot of requests come in related to improving neighborhood health conditions – whether that is related to housing, transportation, improving access to health care in early childhood education, the K-12 school system – things like that,” Renee Steffen, executive director of the Sisters Health Foundation, said.
To aid in creating an area that thrives, the Sisters Health Foundation looks at what it can do to help improve struggling regions. The members guide participating regions to begin their recovery and show the further steps to help sustain recovery.
“We've spent the last several years trying to see how we might help people move to more food security and respond to those that are struggling with thriving neighborhoods,” Sister Molly Bauer, senior program officer of the Sisters Health Foundation, said. “We're aware that the social determinants of health really impact on the ability of a family to thrive or community to thrive. We're really looking at what are those gaps that are preventing people from thriving.”
The foundation partners with a variety of organizations ranging from nonprofits to occasional public entities and churches. In order to be partnered with, these organizations have to have a health and wellness focus to improve upon.
“We're largely a responsive grant making entity, which means that we largely respond or rely on organizations coming to us,” Steffen said. “We also do some active outreach through our e-newsletter, and then we also do press releases.”
During the year, there are two grant cycles hosted by the foundation during the spring and fall. Organizations are able to apply near the time of these grant cycles.
Steffen also noted that the foundation wants to make a more conscious effort to make all organizations in the region aware of the foundation’s existence. In honor of its 25th anniversary, the Sisters Health Foundation is looking to hold events that will create more of a presence within the 11 counties it serves.
Nonprofit owners, or anyone working for nonprofit, are able to sign-up for the Sisters Health Foundation’s e-newsletter. Additionally, nonprofits are able to submit a request during fall or spring for a grant if they find themselves in need of health related services for their organization.
“Our potential grantees, if they're interested, they look at our website and they're like, ‘Oh I wanted to know a little bit more,’ they can subscribe to the newsletter, just like any other kind of website or organization has like a button,” Shei Sanchez, grants and communications manager of the Sisters Health Foundation, said. “Our newsletters are more targeted toward grant making, and toward the grantees in our region, in the middle Ohio Valley.”
As for Athens specifically, the Sisters Health Foundation is continuing to grow their platform.
The Sisters Health Foundation has helped multiple organizations within Athens, including Women for Recovery, Health Recovery Services, Live Healthy Appalachia, Rural Action, Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine’s Mobile Health Unit, Hocking Athens Perry Community Action (HAPCAP) and more.
“We highly value collaboration,” Steffen said. “We try to collaborate with other funders whenever possible, so we do have a strong relationship with Athens County Foundation, as you know we recently partnered with them on some COVID-19 grants to help support nonprofits during the pandemic.”
Steffen, Bauer and Sanchez all have only positive thoughts when thinking about their time with the foundation, especially during the pandemic.
“I think the rewarding part is there were so many awesome people doing so much great work to improve the lives of people in the region,” Steffen said. “It's just the compassion that people have towards helping others. That really is the shining light I would say with the job.”
Correction appended: A previous version of this article contained the incorrect previous name of the Sisters Health Foundation. The article has been updated to reflect the most accurate information.