Six Malheur County community organizations given Covid grants to help communities of color

Euvalcree is a nonprofit community organization based in Ontario that works to help underserved and underrepresented populations. (Rachel Parsons/The Enterprise)

Six Malheur County organizations have been awarded grants from the Oregon Health Authority to help communities of color disproportionately affected by Covid.

State money is going to Eastern Oregon Center for Independent Living, Euvalcree, Four Rivers Cultural Center, Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization, New Hope Day Shelter and Kitchen at Origins, and Oregon Childhood Development Coalition.

They were among 173 organizations statewide chosen to receive funding from the CARES Act “to help respond to COVID-19 in culturally and linguistically responsive ways,” according to a statement from the health authority.

“With COVID-19 disproportionately affecting communities of color, including high infection rates among Latinx, Black and Pacific Islanders, among others, the need for this program was substantial,” the release read.

According to the health authority’s weekly Covid update from July 22, Covid cases per 10,000 people were 71.3 for Black Americans, 26.4 for Asian Americans, 67.9 for American Indians and Alaska Natives, 222.7 for Pacific Islanders, 103.2 for Hispanics and 17.2 for whites.

The health authority will distribute $9.4 million total to community-based organizations in every county to work on three different areas — outreach and community engagement, contact tracing with local public health authorities and providing people with social services and wraparound supports, according to the release.

Outreach and community engagement focuses on sharing accurate Covid information to “help address COVID-19 disparities that are a result of systemic racism and oppression,” according to the release, while contact tracing will involve community health workers, traditional health workers and other trained individuals working to “effectively build relationships and make contact tracing successful.”

Social services and wraparound support will consist of helping individuals impacted by Covid comply with quarantine and isolation requirements by providing housing, meals and other services, according to the release.

However, some organizations are only contracted to work in one or two of the areas, so fund distribution was based on the type and how much work the organization will be doing, according to the release.

Out of those chosen in the county, Euvalcree is getting the most money — $346,939 — while the Four Rivers Cultural Center will receive the least — $54,986. The Eastern Oregon Center for Independent Living will receive $91,944, the Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization $130,929, the New Hope Day Shelter and Kitchen at Origins $78,485 and the Oregon Childhood Development Coalition $259,220, according to Phillip Schmidt, Oregon Health Authority public information officer. The grants cover three months.

Euvalcree, a nonprofit based in Ontario that works to help underserved and underrepresented populations, will be doing work in all three areas and serves eight counties — Baker, Grant, Harney, Malheur, Morrow, Umatilla, Union and Wallowa, said Executive Director Gustavo Morales.

The nonprofit is using its Endeavors Residency Program, which gives college students at Eastern Oregon University, Blue Mountain Community College and Treasure Valley Community College internship opportunities, to help by having interns work in the three areas.

Morales said “several components are still being worked on,” but contact tracing will be done by 45 paid, trained individuals in partnership with local health authorities.

The mission for outreach and community engagement work will include helping with financial assistance, food access, protective gear, health care access and emergency shelter, he said.

The Oregon Childhood Development Coalition, which provides early childhood care and education services, has locations in Nyssa and Ontario. Donalda Dodson, executive director, said the coalition is only contracted to do outreach and community engagement work.

“Our interest was to have individuals in the community help the communities of color and all those more disenfranchised populations get the message about COVID-19 and hopefully be able to engage them in discussions and information that was relevant to them,” said Dodson.

Two areas will be worked on by the Four Rivers Cultural Center, an Ontario nonprofit that focuses on showcasing ethnically diverse arts — outreach and community engagement and social services and wraparound support, said Tanya Navarrete, a spokesperson for the center. Details are still in the works for how the center will provide social services and support, but they will be “programming several events” to give information and services to the community.

The center’s strategies for outreach and community engagement are to use social media and digital communication to inform the community about Covid in English and Spanish, said Navarrete. The center is also working with Community in Action to implement outreach for Covid-19 rental relief.”

“We are completely dedicated to serving the community in whatever capacity we are able to. This grant allows us to do just that, and more specifically, while we are all navigating our way through this pandemic,” said Navarette.

The New Hope Day Shelter and Kitchen at Origins, a shelter and meal site operated by Origins Faith Community, will be working on community engagement and social services and wraparound support in Malheur County, said Pam Seiders, a spokesperson for Origins Faith.

Community outreach will be done by identifying schools, businesses and organizations that need information about Covid best practices. For example, Seiders said, Origins has built prototypes of “napping stations” for its day shelter that teachers can use in classrooms and a “quad station” prototype, which allows four people to sit at desks while seeing “each other and interact while still wearing masks and keeping safe practices while each is in their own safe bubble.”

“Our goal is to provide as many people as we can with creative ideas on how to move forward in this pandemic, without going backwards,” said Seiders.

For social services and wraparound support, Origins Faith has licensed counselors and social workers through Common Unity, but the complete details of how this will be done are being developed, Seiders said. For help or assistance from Faith Origins, call 541-889-6411.

“For us this grant was and is an opportunity for us to serve our community in a real and tangible way, and that is where we feel most comfortable,” said Seiders.

The Eastern Oregon Center for Independent Living, a resource and advocacy center for persons with disabilities, will be doing work in all three areas, said William Toombs, chief research officer. Community education will consist of communicating with residents in their preferred language and regular coordination with public health officials, among other things.

Contact tracing will be done by individuals who are qualified in handling confidential information while support services will help with health care, grocery shopping, housing support, utilities and telecommunication support and connection to community resources, according to a document detailing the scope of work from Toombs.

All three areas will also be worked on by the Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization, which helps immigrants, refugees and community members become self-sufficient, said Jenny Bremner, director of development and communications. Social services and wraparound support may include tasks like grocery shopping, meal delivery, rent or mortgage assistance, and navigating and connecting with community resources.

The organization will also have bilingual, bicultural staff to communicate with the community virtually or by phone, and instant information sharing for outreach and community engagement work, said Bremner. Trained staff will be conducting contact tracing.

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