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Public health awarded $900,000 grant for Fueling the Future


Muscatine Journal, July 16, 2020


MUSCATINE — For months, UnityPoint-Trinity Muscatine Public Health has hoped to take one of its most anticipated community projects to full capacity, and now it is another step closer to that goal. This week, Trinity Muscatine Public Health was awarded a grant by the Health Resources and Service Administration for $900,000. “We’re very excited about the opportunity for our community,” said Public Health Director Christy Roby Williams. “I’m honored to be a part of it.” With this grant, Public Health will continue to fund its Fueling the Future program and expand it to its full capacity, something UnityPoint officials say will help up to 120 Muscatine County families move toward a more stable life and a brighter future for their children. The Fueling the Future program is a collaborative effort between many different Muscatine groups, including the Community Foundation of Greater Muscatine, Muscatine Community College, Muscatine City Housing, Muscatine Center for Social Action, Aligned Impact Muscatine and United Way of Muscatine, and Public Health. Robert Young Center will also be invited to join the network, Roby Williams said. “Through the Robert Young Center, we would have an aspect in the space of mental health services and substance disorder services.”

The University of Iowa’s College of Public Health will also work alongside Muscatine County Public Health during the project to help evaluate the outcomes and the holistic model that the network has designed. Through this program, qualifying families of children receiving food “backpacks” or other food assistance from school will have the chance to start a six-week "earn as you learn" upskill training program. “We have identified several families within the Muscatine school district that are interested in this opportunity, so we’re just moving forward to the best of our ability in partnering with the school district,” Roby Williams said. While the parents of these families are beginning their training in a specialty field, such as welding or nursing, they will receive short-term assistance from their economic navigator for issues or barriers that may otherwise get in the way of success, such as transportation struggles, nutrition needs, day care options or a lack of wi-fi. Public Health will provide the Fueling the Future coordinator to manage the HRSA grant money for three years, as well as two of the economic navigators, Roby Williams said. “The economic navigators are the individuals that helps identify the families, walks alongside them, does a social determinants of health screening and connects them to all resources they need in order to be successful in the program, during their training and six months after they’ve completed the program,” Roby Williams said.

Funds from the HRSA grant will also be put toward families to help assist with subsidies. “Whatever infrastructures that family needs to get through that six-week upskill certification program, there are dollars in this grant that will help do that,” she said. “There are multiple facets within the grant that helps the families successfully walk through the program so that they don’t have to worry about the financial impact as they dedicate six weeks to this learning opportunity.” When looking ahead, Roby Williams said that she hopes to bring the program to its full capacity within the next month. “Right now, we’re working on creating job postings with our HR department, and we’re hoping those positions will be posted within the next week or two,” she said. She also encouraged any Muscatine families who receive food through the backpack program or the Bags of Blessing program and who are interested in a CNA, CNC or welding certificate to call Public Health at 563-263-0122 and speak to an economic navigator to begin the assessment process.

“We’re really trying to find the folks in the community that have that engagement readiness and they’re ready to take on this adventure with us,” said Roby Williams. “If you look at collective impact models, it’s several community impact organizations working together to offer to give people opportunities to upskill and have a sustainable future for themselves and for their children, and I am very excited to be a part of that.”

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