Alliance Medical Ministry teams up for greater impact

By Todd Cohen

RALEIGH, N.C. — When patients at its health clinic want to improve their job skills or change jobs, Alliance Medical Ministry in Raleigh refers them to StepUp Ministry Raleigh, which offers a life-skills program to job-seekers.

And when StepUp clients lack health insurance, the agency refers them to Alliance, which provides comprehensive primary medical care to working adults in Wake County who are uninsured.

“If you have access to healthy community initiatives and social supports, it will increase patients’ ability to address health issues and life issues,” says Megg Rader, president and executive director of Alliance.

To help raise awareness of their collaborative work, and generate funds to help support it, Alliance  and StepUp this fall piloted “Share the Pie,” selling 500 donated pies for Thanksgiving.

The effort, which recruited professional bakers from restaurants, caterers and bakers in Raleigh and Cary, raised $12,500 and likely will be expanded next year.

Founded in 2001 and operating with an annual  budget of $1.4 million, 17 employees and 250 active volunteers, Alliance serves about 4,000 patients. In addition to comprehensive primary care, it provides lab work donated by Rex Healthcare and medicine either at reduced cost or free.

And in partnership with at least 20 organizations, Alliance increasingly is focusing on the interconnectedness between health, wellness, jobs and poverty.

It also is working to connect patients to information and resources for healthy food, exercise, physical activity and other support services such as job training, child care and transportation to address barriers to economic stability for people in need.

Alliance is one of five agencies in Wake County that are piloting a “community-centered health home” model — one of 12 pilot programs throughout the state supported by the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation.

Alliance and YMCA of Triangle already have piloted the kind of program the model is looking for. Alliance now refers its patients in southast Raleigh who are identified as pre-diabetic to a diabetes-prevention program that YMCA of the Triangle piloted at the Alexander Family YMCA on Hillsborough Street and then piloted with Alliance for its patients in southeast Raleigh.

Through The Family Table, a separate but overlapping initiative supported by United Way of the Greater Triangle, Alliance is one of six partner agencies that connect clients to one another and collect data to identify support services to better serve clients.

The Food Pantry at Catholic Charities, for example, assesses the employment needs of clients, and then might refer them to StepUp or Dress for Success, partner agencies that can provide them with job-training classes or programs to develop their skills in applying for jobs.

Other partners in the pilot program, which serves 50 families in southeast Raleigh, are Child Care Services Associates and the Wake County Boys and Girls Clubs.

Generating over $1 million a year in contributions, Alliance in May 2014 launched Alliance Circle, a giving program that 30 women have joined by agreeing to give $100 a month for two years, or a total of $2,400 each, enough to support the health of three women at Alliance.

Alliance also generates income from two events it hosts in alternate years — a “Farm to Table” dinner that raised $125,000 this past spring, and “In Her Shoes,” a women’s leadership luncheon that will be held next spring and focuses on women’s health and overcoming barriers to women’s health.

“All these organizations that are serving vulnerable populations have so much crossover,” Rader says. “We work on health, but unless we connect health to all these other issues people are facing, we’re really not going to move forward.”

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Combining education, services to fight poverty

By Todd Cohen

RALEIGH, N.C. — Six-and-a-half years ago, after having served for eight years as pastor at Williams Grove Baptist Church in southeast Raleigh, Kirby Jones was frustrated at continuing to see children from the congregation involved in “all the bad things so typical of inner-city communities,” including dropping out of school, getting into trouble, even going to jail.

Concluding that education would be the best solution to “actually bring children out of the cycle of generational poverty,” Jones says, he launched the Daniel Center for Math and Science, a nonprofit that focuses on science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM.

Today, the Daniel Center operates a licensed child-care center that serves 31 children ages five to 12 in space leased from Williams Grove Baptist Church, and a program for 12 teens that operates in space donated from Edenton Street United Methodist Church and provides academic tutoring, visits to college campuses, job-shadowing, and connections with community leaders.

The Daniel Center also is part of a group of seven nonprofits that for the past year has been developing a collaborative effort to help families lift themselves out of poverty.

Known as the Wake Collaborative, the group recently received a $7,000 grant from Triangle Community Foundation to support a plan to create a pre-kindergarten classroom at the Daniel Center that would serve 18 children, and to provide “wraparound” services to serve those student and their families.

Linda Nunnallee, executive director of StepUp Ministry Raleigh, one of the partner agencies in the Collaborative, says poverty affects not only individuals and families but also the entire community.

The poverty rate in Raleigh nearly doubled between 2000 and 2012, a pace that was third-fastest in the U.S., she said.

In the area for the 27610 Zip Code, which includes the Daniel Center, she said, the number of children living in poverty had grown 46 percent since 2008, and one in three households with children live in poverty.

Poverty means “poor health outcomes, high crime rates, high unemployment, failing academic performance,” Nunnallee said at an event in March, when five partnerships competed for a $25,000 grant from Triangle Community Foundation.

As one of five the five semifinalists, from among more than 50 that submitted proposals in response to a request for ideas for innovative, collaborative solutions to community problems, the Wake Collaborative received $7,000.

The Collaborative aims to provide a “seamless pipeline of early care and education from birth to fifth grade,” Nunnallee said.

Each family would work with a case manager and be connected to a coordinated system of supportive services so it was “actively engaged in their child’s future,” she said.

Kirby says a key goal will be to support families and their children throughout their education, and to expand to serve more children and families.

“The end game for teens,” he says, “is to see them not just graduate from high school, but be successfully enrolled in a two-year or four-year university.”