AmeriCorps grants $2.2 million to Chicago, downstate Illinois groups for public health programs

The AmeriCorps grants aim to improve public health, food and educational services for students and seniors.

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AmeriCorps, a federal agency for national service and volunteerism, is giving $2.2 million in grants to Chicago and downstate organizations for public health programs.

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WASHINGTON — AmeriCorps, the federal agency for national service and volunteerism — whose CEO, Michael Smith, is a former Obama Presidential Foundation official — is announcing $2.2 million in grants on Friday to train public health leaders in Chicago and downstate Illinois.

Smith joined AmeriCorps in December 2021, after serving as executive director of the My Brother’s Keeper Alliance and director of youth opportunity programs at the Obama Foundation. My Brother’s Keeper was one of former President Barack Obama’s signature initiatives, and Smith led the project in the White House.

AmeriCorps’ roots are in the poverty-fighting Volunteers in Service to America — VISTA — program started in 1964. AmeriCorps continued VISTA’s work when it became a federal agency in 1993. Today, the national service agency runs, among other domestic programs, AmeriCorps, AmeriCorps Seniors and Public Health AmeriCorps.

The grants go to:

  • Association House of Chicago, $282,500 for Public Health AmeriCorps volunteers to “provide education, training, counseling, coaching and service navigation through multiple programs … to improve community health” in Cook County. The mission of the nonprofit is to “serve a multicultural community by providing comprehensive, collaborative and effective programs in English and Spanish” to “promote health and wellness and create opportunities for educational and economic advancement.”
  • Gardeneers, which runs school garden and farm programs to produce locally grown food, $719,997 for Public Health AmeriCorps to “conduct outreach to provide support, resources, tools and access to locally grown fresh produce for students, families and community members through school garden programs, farm stands and community workshops in schools and surrounding communities primarily on the West and South sides of Chicago.”
  • Sinai Health System, which serves impoverished communities on Chicago’s West and Southwest sides, $413,518 to “increase school attendance and academic performance for youth, advance health equity and improve service delivery within Sinai’s service area.”
  • The University of Chicago, $499,999 to train 18 AmeriCorps seniors in Chicago and south suburban Harvey to “who live on the South Side or Southland to become clinical research assistants to assist with medical needs, including increased senior access to oral health, a senior roommate project to address loneliness and connect seniors to health interventions.”
  • The HAP Foundation, which helps people who are seriously ill, $332,342 for AmeriCorps Seniors in Knox, Macon, Peoria, Rock Island and Sangamon counties to serve as community health workers in historically underserved communities.

“It is essential that we not only continue to build and strengthen our nation’s public health workforce, but that we ensure public health professionals come from and represent the communities in which they serve,” said AJ Pearlman, director of Public Health AmeriCorps in a statement.

“We’re thrilled to be announcing an additional $2.2 million in federal investments to support organizations working to recruit, train and develop Chicago’s next generation of public health leaders. This is what improving health equity looks like. This is what investing in America looks like.”

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