In 2012 CHEER moved forward in creating healthy, thriving communities in Long Branch and Takoma Park, Maryland, by completing a Community Strategic Plan and advancing community priorities by forming coalitions, circles, and leading major initiatives, such as the creation of a Health Enterprise Zone.
Community Strategic Plan
In a two month long process early in 2012 40 community leaders prioritized 22 goals identified by Long Branch and Takoma Park residents in the areas of housing, health, and the local economy into 5 top priority goals and has prepared a long list of selected actions to help address them. The five priority goals focus on
improving employment opportunity,
reducing health disparities and increasing access to health,
providing for housing that is affordable to people of all income levels,
building social connections so that neighbors know each other and work on common projects, and
creating a safe and comfortable place for people to interact and support local business.
Local Employment and Economic Empowerment
Acting on these priorities, CHEER engaged in three projects related to economic empowerment in the community.
CHEER created a coalition to apply for funding to expand local employment opportunities. The proposal centered on Adventist Community Services’ Job Questprogram that aims at providing local people with training to obtain local jobs. The coalition, which called itself the Takoma Park/Long Branch Economic Empowerment Coalition, also included the Takoma Langley Crossroads Community Development Authority.
CHEER sponsored a public forum conducted by the Democracy Collaborative on community wealth creation which discussed ways to create cooperative businesses tied to anchor institutions that are rooted in the community. This model is exemplified by the Evergreen Cooperatives in Cleveland. The democracy collaborative has since recommended to the Washington Regional Area Grant Makers that they fund the establishment of “Evergreen” style cooperatives in Long Branch and part of DC.
CHEER sponsored a Local Resilience Circle, also known as a Common Security Club, among residents of Essex House and others nearby. 12 participants gathered twice a month to obtain an understanding of the sources of economic insecurity and to provide mutual support. They also learned about balcony gardening and how to make a living without a job.
Health Partnership and the Health Enterprise Zone Coalition
CHEER also acted to address the health goals by forming a partnership with the Primary Care Coalition (PCC). CHEER made joint applications with the PCC for community based participatory research grants from the National Institutes of Health, the Center for Disease Control and the Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute.
The largest undertaking of the year was CHEER’s convening of a coalition of local health care providers, service organizations, government, and community groups, to address the social determinants of health, make health care accessible to all community members, and reduce health disparities. This coalition, with the Primary Care Coalition as the lead applicant and fiscal agent, proposed that the State of Maryland designate Long Branch and Takoma Park as a health enterprise zone. The proposal requested more than $5 million in state funds over 4 years. CHEER would manage more than $300,000 each year to address the social determinants of health and improve health care access to Long Branch residents with a focus on diabetes.
Although the Long Branch HEZ proposal received a favorable review, it was not included in the list of newly designated HEZ’s. However, CHEER has received indications that funding may be available from private foundations and other state sources. CHEER and the PCC will continue to exert efforts to establish and implement the Long Branch Health Enterprise Zone.
Throughout the Year CHEER conducted showings and discussions of the PBS documentary “Unnatural Causes: Is Inequality Making us Sick?” These events were made possible with the support of the Consumer Health Foundation. CHEER conducted showings for the staff of Mary’s Center Health Clinic, for residents who are primarily African Immigrants, and in Spanish for a primarily Latino audience. The showings were followed by informative and engaging conversations, which yielded contacts and possibilities for further activities.
Strengthening Community Connections
CHEER also supported multi-cultural interaction by facilitating community events organized by Takoma United for Engaged Community, such as the Martin Luther King day celebration, International Dance Festival, and “Explore Takoma” historic walk in Ward 4.