COLORADO SPRINGS — For many years, Kaiser Permanente has honored the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., by volunteering on MLK Day at dozens of nonprofits across the state—providing hundreds of employees and physicians to help.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Kaiser Permanente shifted its focus from volunteering to providing grants. This year, the company is awarding $500,000 to five nonprofits across Colorado to aid in advancing racial equity and addressing systemic racism. One of those organizations is right here in Colorado Springs—Pikes Peak United Way.
"Here at Pikes Peak United Way, we fight for the health, education, and financial stability of every member of every community. We know programs like these take funding so for us to have this incredible grant from Kaiser Permanente, means the world. It means we can go from talking about things to doing," said Elizabeth Quevedo, Director of Colorado Springs Promise with Pikes Peak United Way.
As a recipient of the grant, the nonprofit organization will allocate $100,000 towards dismantling racist structures and practices that prevent communities of color from achieving good health.
"This has been happening for a really long time. Based on recent events, many organizations are now seeing we all have to pitch it and address this issue, especially when you consider MLK and his teachings. We have been talking about this and Kaiser Permanente is committed to turning intent into action," said Carmen Martin, Kaiser Permanente Senior Community Health Specialist.
The company selected Pikes Peak United Way for its continued efforts toward diversity and inclusion.
"We really wanted organizations where people of color were at the helm so they were led by people of color and we wanted representation on their board. We wanted to know people of color were leading that organization and had leadership roles," said Martin.
The grants are a $25 million commitment Kaiser Permanente announced in June to promote health equity and break the cycle of racism-driven stresses that lead to poor health outcomes for its members and communities.
This set of grants support established community-based organizations led by people of color, addressing racial and social justice.
“As we celebrate the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., we are proud to announce our support for important, ongoing work of organizations in our state dedicated to advancing racial equity,” said Michael Ramseier, Kaiser Permanente regional president in Colorado. “We know there is still much to be done and Kaiser Permanente is committed to creating a better, more equitable future for our members and communities.”
Pikes Peak United Way plans to use the grant to create a leadership program for young adults in marginalized communities.
"It will be a two-hour weekly program that gives leadership training and teaches them to create a voice for themselves and people like them. There will be ten-week sessions, and we will serve about 100 people in the community. It will essentially teach them how to be on a board for an organization and how to come to the table with the issues that they are facing," said Quevedo.
Along with the program, the organization will also focus its efforts on high school students.
"We also plan on doing some things in the school systems because if you're just hearing about this and your 18 or 19, maybe you're already in a career, maybe you're working in a job or maybe you're in college. We want to increase that pipeline," said Quevedo. "My goal is to always reach kids at an early age, the earlier you can reach kids the better. So we will be doing some workshops and training within high schools."
As part of this work, Kaiser Permanente will develop a formal evaluation plan for these grants, with input from a panel of national racial and social justice experts, to track and measure the initiative's overall impact.
The five Colorado-based organizations receiving an equal portion of the funding over the next two years include: