Coalitions receive funding to tackle local challenges Pt. 2

Be Your Best - Cottage Grove

Only July 1, United Way of Lane County awarded four local coalitions a total of $300,000 (or $75,000 a piece) for the purpose of fostering collaboration, deepening partnerships, and hastening these groups towards success in their stated goals.
Nearly 40 non-profits and community partners comprise these four coalitions. United Way of Lane County announced in a recent press release that the following organizations will be serving as the “backbone” of their respective coalitions: Be Your Best (BYB) – Cottage Grove, for the South Lane Child Care Coalition; the Hope & Safety Alliance, for the Lane County Violence Prevention Coalition; Lane Community Health Council, for the Lane Learning Collaborative (Housing), and FOOD For Lane County, for Addressing Gaps in Food Access for School Communities.

“[These] aren’t people coming together to have a conversation for the first time, but it’s the first time that they’re actually receiving a grant to implement some of the ideas that they’ve been talking about for a number of years,” said Jared Pruch, the director of community impact for United Way of Lane County, in an interview with the Sentinel that appeared last week in part one of this article. 

Obtaining the financial assets necessary to pursue dynamic solutions to complex and engrained societal issues, can be especially difficult for rural communities like Cottage Grove. Often, state or federal grant funding exists, but the purpose for which the money can be used is narrowly specific.

Although the availability of funding may feel like an opportunity, no matter what the form is in which it comes, responding to this top-down approach to governance and “doing good” can distract a community’s non-profit sector from pursuing that for which it has communicated a need.

Service work from the ground up is something that United Way of Lane County has chosen to prioritize with this new grant funding attribution. In fact, United Way itself works from a bottom-up approach. Although each United Way affiliate retains the name and branding of the United Way Worldwide organization, individual United Way groups are run independently of one another and are incorporated as separate non-profits.

It is United Way of Lane County’s hope, Pruch said, that the 2022 Community Change Coalition grants will be extended into three-year awards. This would allow organizations that have long been working on the front lines in their respective communities to think big in regard to how they might help residents improve their quality of life and meet basic needs.

Samantha Duncan, an administrator with Be Your Best – Cottage Grove, recently sat for an interview with Cottage Grove Sentinel Editor Sarah Glass to discuss how the group came to be and what it hopes to accomplish for the South Lane County community with the opportunity afforded it by United Way of Lane County.

“BYB has been around in South Lane since 2013,” said Duncan, “It is a collective impact group of people who represent a variety of direct service agencies, faith-based organizations, and government entities.”

While the people involved in BYB do not officially represent the entities for which they work when they are meeting, Duncan went on to elaborate that it is because of the expertise they individually possess and the expansive arrays of community connections they collectively possess that they are able to make the group function as efficiently as it does.

According to Duncan, what started as a modest information-sharing network evolved into a group that eventually began meeting monthly. Part of the reason for this evolution (and for BYB’s impressive list of participating members) would be because of a different United Way of Lane County effort, that of focusing on the county Community Health Needs Assessment.

Duncan explained that because Oregon’s coordinated care organizations (CCOs) – i.e., PeaceHealth and Trillium – are non-profits, there is a portion of their revenue that goes into a special fund used to finance new or improved health services for state residents. The way that healthcare deficiencies within Oregon communities are assessed and then addressed is through the CHA and CHP, or the Community Health Needs Assessment and Community Health Improvement Plan, respectively.

“The needs assessment basically does a pulse check of where the most pressing needs are in the community around social determinants of health. Maybe it's job security, food insecurity, transportation, housing, or childcare… [Then the CCOs] put together their CHP, which is their plan to address the needs that come out of the needs assessment,” said Duncan.

There are a number of community partners that make it their mission to focus on the regularly updated healthcare assessment and improvement plans as devised by Oregon’s CCOs. Be Your Best – Cottage Grove is one such entity that has made the Lane County CHP and CHA part of its mission’s purview.

The reason for BYB choosing this course of action to help South Lane residents - according to Amy Callahan Tracewell, the former executive director for the Cottage Grove Community Hospital Foundation – is because, when the first Community Health Improvement Plan was devised in 2013 by the local CCOs in collaboration with United Way of Lane County, “We [aka rural community partners] weren’t really being involved in providing answers for our area, so we came together in an effort to raise our collective voices to get the resources we need for our region.”

Since then, United Way of Lane County, BYB, and their: partners, have both worked to respond to rural healthcare inequity. Cottage Grove/South Lane and the Upper Siuslaw River Region are two pilot communities in which rural voices help advise the county CHA and CHP.

Duncan shared that with United Way of Lane County’s coalition grant that BYB, as a part of the South Lane Child Care Coalition, will be developing a detailed childcare assessment with South Lane – 90x30. The assessment will include “resource mapping to help us kind of understanding what already exists in Cottage Grove and South Lane County in terms of providers and resources for childcare, infant care, after school care, and summer programming,” she said, “and then also where the gaps are and what the priorities are.”

BYB also has plans to form into an official non-profit soon, Duncan said. To learn more about the organization, you can visit the organization’s Facebook page or