United Way Berks awards 4 Venture Grants to address health inequities and workforce development

Berks County continues to face significant challenges by a world forever changed by the pandemic. COVID increased issues of health inequity and created major workforce disruption. United Way of Berks County is providing four Venture Grants to support programming in the areas of health and workforce development.

“Pre-existing health inequities were magnified by COVID-19. Too many individuals and families throughout our county face barriers and limited resources, like a lack of transportation, no insurance, and not enough to eat,” says Tammy White, President of United Way of Berks County.

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“Our community faces employment challenges as our county’s workforce ages. Innovative approaches are needed to attract a more diverse workforce, as well as disconnected young adults, with employment. We are pleased to support several innovative programs designed to improve health, by increasing access to care and nutritional food, and programming that will improve the employability of motivated individuals who are currently unemployed or under employed.”

United Way of Berks County’s Board of Directors recently approved these 2022 Venture Grant recipients:

To support better health outcomes by increasing access to healthy and fresh food through a $38,190 grant to Catholic Charities. The grant will support an expanded food pantry with increased hours in 2023 in the only food bank in the Lancaster Ave. neighborhood area. The grant also supports the purchase of a commercial refrigeration/freezer unit.

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A $50,000 grant will support a collaboration between The Literacy Council of Reading-Berks, Inc. and Berks Connections/Pretrial Services (BCPS) to start Level Up, a new workforce development program. The program provides GED and ESL classes at the BCPS site as part of a customized, case-managed approach for employment preparation. The grant supports personnel costs for four classes and program materials.

The Food Trust received $50,000 to expand access to healthy and affordable food in underserved areas through its Healthy Corner Store initiative. The initiative features “Berks Farm Bucks” to help low-income individuals stretch their limited food budgets to include healthy food not ordinarily purchased in participating stores. Nutrition education is also provided at the stores to demonstrate food preparation and to explain the benefits of eating fresh food. The grant onboards two Reading corner stores and the purchase of commercial refrigeration units to allow fresh produce offerings.

Western Berks Free Medical Clinic, Inc. will expand its services for the uninsured by opening a satellite clinic at Mary’s Shelter in Reading to better serve patients who are unable to travel to the Robesonia location. Funding from a $33,713 grant will purchase exam room equipment and support a portion of personnel costs.

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Berks Weekly
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