STRENGTH IN NUMBERS—Awardees from the Center The C.A.R.E.S. and Melting Pot Ministries pose with funders from the POISE Foundation and Highmark during an Aug.14 grant announcement. (Photo by J.L.Martello)

Funding support programs for Black teen mothers, or for dropouts needing remedial training, or for single mothers who need daycare are all worthy causes. But they are almost always done so in isolation and, therefore, do not address the broader issue of strengthening those Black families.

Now, thanks to $250,000 in previously received funding from Highmark, the POISE Foundation announced it has awarded grants to four nonprofits that have tailored programs to wholistically address such issues while involving additional family members.

That, POISE President and CEO Mark Lewis told the Aug. 14 audience at Wesley Center AMEZ Church, is the foundation’s primary objective.





“As a small foundation, our board decided to focus our resources on our families,” he said at the August 14 press announcement. “But even POISE can’t do it alone, which is why I’m pleased to announce $250,000 in funding from Highmark will support our Strengthening Black Families work.”

Evan Frazier, Highmark senior vice president for community affairs, said without strong community partners like POISE, it could not accomplish its goals of nurturing a strong and healthy community.

The first grants coming from the Highmark funding will go to four nonprofits already engaged in augmenting their existing programming to make a more holistic impact on strengthening Black families.

POISE Vice President of Programs Karris Jackson said they were chosen from 26 nonprofits that responded to a request for proposals the foundation sent out last year.

Of those, 10 were asked to submit more detailed proposals. The foundation then selected four to receive $20,000 grants.

“The focus is to reestablish the Black family as a core entity in the community,” she said. “Strong Black families can improve conditions not just in their communities, but for everyone in the Pittsburgh area.”

The awardees are:

•Amachi Pittsburgh’s Family Strengthening Project Plan, which will determine critical issues and support needs for families of children with incarcerated parents;

•The University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine’s Teen Mothers-Young Father Program, which will incorporate young fathers into established activities for teen mothers that encourage parents to improve communications skills to empower them in decision making and interacting with the people and systems around them;



BRENDA ATKINS LOCKLEY Melting Pot Ministries


•The Center that C.A.R.E.S. Family Time Program, which is a series of events designed to engage family members in joint activities that foster positive interaction and develop skills that support healthier family relationships; and

•Melting Pot Ministries’ Family Konnections Program, which employs a series of psychodrama and psycho-educational role-playing sessions, designed to increase parent involvement in their children’s lives.

Melting Pot CEO Brenda Lockley said her agency has pooled the resources of several churches to participate in the program.

“We’re the only program in the South Hills working with disadvantaged Black youth who are struggling academically in the midst of a suburban, largely successful White environment,” she said. “The funding allows us to hire program teachers and a performance actor to focus the role playing. We’re dealing with kids from three different school districts, which aren’t addressing the issues because they only make up about 2 percent of the population.”

Reverend Glenn Grayson, who founded the Center that C.A.R.E.S., said the funding allows it to expand its reach.

“We’re hoping to connect three generations through six-week workshops to improve interpersonal communications,” he said.

Because this is a demonstration grant Jackson said POISE has hired an independent agency to evaluate the programs over the course of the next year.

“For us, its about getting organizations to shift their lenses to family incorporation, and shifting nonprofit thinking into wholistic services instead of focusing on just the child, or the mom, or the dad,” she said.

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