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Published on September 14, 2022

Wishes Granted Through Community BenefitsWishes Granted Through Community Benefits

Cape Cod Healthcare’s annual grants to nonprofit organizations help move the needle in a positive direction, says Jennifer Cummings, Associate Director of Development and Community Benefits at Cape Cod Healthcare Foundation.

When Jennifer Cummings meets someone for the first time at a social gathering and is asked what she does for a living, she has three elevator pitches prepared: a 3-second, 30-second and two-minute version.

Three seconds: Community health for Cape Cod Healthcare.

30 seconds: A community health needs assessment is conducted every three years to find out our community needs, and we award grants around those needs. So I spend a lot of time building relationships with different community groups on the county level. I get to meet people who are doing great work in the community—that’s probably my favorite part of the job. I learn so much.

“If people are really interested,” says Cummings, “I’ll go into my two-minute speech, which goes into the rules and regulations of the Attorney General’s Office. But that doesn’t happen too often,” says Cummings with a laugh.

Over the next couple of months, Cummings will be busy working on the Annual Strategic Grant Request for Proposals (RFP). Every year, the Cape Cod Healthcare Community Benefits program awards nearly $300,000 in grants to local nonprofit organizations and programs through its RFP, a competitive grant process that addresses the unmet needs of the residents of Barnstable County. These are needs that go beyond traditional medical-care services. Grants are provided Capewide to organizations that focus on improving physical and behavioral health, which includes mental health and substance use disorders, as well as the social determinants of health.

The window to apply opened Aug. 15, and the deadline is Sept. 15, 2022. Applicants will be notified of awards in October.

“We focus on social determinants of health—things in your environment that influence your health, like housing, health equity, transportation and food access,” says Cummings. “I find that really interesting and important.”

In previous years, grantees have included Cape Cod Children’s Place, The Family Pantry of Cape Cod, Cape Cod Times Needy Fund, Cape Wellness Collaborative, Samaritans on Cape Cod & the Islands and Sustainable CAPE/Outer Cape Health Services.

“It’s really important for CCHC to have a dedicated position to look at these issues because as an organization, we want our community to be healthy.”

Investing back into the community

Every nonprofit hospital has a community benefits program regulated by the Attorney General. One of the AG’s main regulations, says Cummings, includes investing 3 to 5 percent of net patient revenue back into the community every year. This past year, CCHC invested $28 million into our local community. An additional regulation includes the Community Health Needs Assessment every three years. “Every dollar that we count toward the 3 to 5 percent has to be tied back to a priority in the community health needs assessment,” says Cummings.

Cummings, who received her master’s degree in social work from the University of Wisconsin and undergrad degree in psychology from Providence College, has held a variety of leadership positions in philanthropy, fundraising and grant writing over her career. But her latest role most closely aligns with her passion and educational background, specifically the community health piece and helping people improve their lives.

Cummings says she has seen the positive effects of the CCHC annual grants first-hand.

Here are several examples:

Big Brothers Big Sisters: “We helped fund their mentorship program for kids that are at risk for substance-use disorders. They just sent me this beautiful story with photographs about a Big and a Little, and it brought me to tears. The ‘Little’ was the ‘Big’s’ best man in his wedding—a 10-year relationship. You know that child’s life was changed because of this mentor, a positive role model.”

Sustainable CAPE: Located on the Outer Cape, Sustainable CAPE organizes a subscription vegetable program (in partnership with Outer Cape Health). “We worked with them on a pilot program two years ago and helped get it off the ground,” says Cummings. “With a doctor’s note, you can exchange it for free produce at the Farmers Market. It’s paired with a nutritionist and a cooking class; it’s social and educational. This year, they are expanding the program with funding from the grant.”

Sharing Kindness: “I worked with them on grant writing. We had a hand in building their capacity. Now they are a community expert on education and support related to suicide, grief and mental health.”

The Family Pantry of Cape Cod: “We have funded their mobile food pantry for many years. Not only is it about the food access, but transportation.”

Health Imperatives: “This group works with our maternity department for a program called Nourishing Newborns Together. They sign families up for WIC, which leads to any other services they might need.”

Cummings says, “It’s so important to have your finger on the pulse of what’s happening in our community: what our needs are and how Cape Cod Healthcare can move the needle on some of these really big issues. People look to us to do something and to make a difference.”

Review or download the RFP application at https://www.capecodhealth.org/y23-rfp

For more information, visit www.capecodhealth.org/about/caring-for-our-community/

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