Jessica Cejnar Andrews / Wednesday, Aug. 25 @ 10:04 a.m. / COVID-19, Community

Del Norte-Based Emergency Response Network Receives $100,000 Grant Named for Local Resident


A volunteer with Neighbors Together for Good shops for food to deliver to isolated community members during the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo courtesy of CARESTAR.

A Berkeley-based foundation has awarded a $100,000 grant to Neighbors Together for Good, a local emergency response network created at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Created by the CARESTAR Foundation, the Leighton Memorial Grant Award is named for Jeff Leighton, who had lived in Del Norte County and died in 2018, according to his wife Tamera Leighton.

"The competition was fierce across rural regions in the state and I'm both surprised and pleased that it was awarded so close to home," Tamera Leighton told the Wild Rivers Outpost on Tuesday.

From a Tuesday CARESTAR news release:

BERKELEY, California – August 24, 2021 – The CARESTAR Foundation today announced Neighbors Together for Good, a local partnership of organizations including True North Organizing Network, Del Norte Senior Center, and Del Norte Office of Emergency Services, as the 2021 recipient of the Leighton Memorial Grant Award.

Established in 2018, this $100,000 grant award is given out annually to a coalition or collaborative in a rural, frontier, or tribal area that has demonstrated success in improving emergency and prehospital care with a focus on addressing inequity. It seeks to further the legacy of Jeff Leighton, a key advisor to the CARESTAR Foundation during the early days of the organization’s development.

This year's grantee, Neighbors Together for Good (NTFG), was selected for its communitycentered, rapid, collaborative response during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In March 2020, when the state-wide coronavirus shelter-in-place order was announced, True North Organizing Network immediately recognized that responding to the needs of the most vulnerable members of the community was going to require a grassroots, multi-agency approach. The Del Norte County and tribal lands (DNATL), largely comprised of undocumented Latinx immigrants, Native residents, and a small Asian American Pacific Islander community, is a federally designated Medically Underserved Area in the far northwest corner of California.

Once True North Organizing Network contacted the Del Norte Senior Center and the Del Norte Office of Emergency Services, Neighbors Together for Good was created and had volunteers immediately start conducting wellness checks and providing emergency food and medication to those in need.

“Programs like this are critically important to connect services to those who need them. Finding volunteers is always a challenge, but more so during the pandemic. A program that connects volunteers to community needs is a key to successfully supporting our community,” said Charlaine Mazzei, Executive Director, Del Norte Senior Center.

“Neighbors Together for Good played a critical role, filling gaps in our emergency response system and supporting our Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), during a time of unprecedented need,” said Kymmie Scott, Del Nore County Emergency Services Manager. “It is truly a unique and innovative partnership model and one that we are incredibly proud to be a part of.”

Throughout 2020, members of the coalition continued to offer a coordinated, county-wide safety net for seniors and Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC), setting up a hotline and door-to-door outreach for essential services, organizing a phone banking needs assessment survey, and providing regular check-ins with isolated community members. As work continued, the group realized that they were laying the foundation for what could become a stable, community-wide emergency response network with critical stakeholders ready to respond to future needs.

“The early COVID response network set up by Neighbors Together for Good has evolved into a strong regional partnership that continues to provide relief to communities in Humboldt and Del Norte County and tribal lands in the face of several emergencies that continue today,” said Terry Supahan, Executive Director of True North. “We are honored to receive this award and are grateful to CARESTAR and the Leighton family for recognizing the unique challenges that rural, frontier, and tribal communities face during times of crisis. This award will provide key funding and help us to continue to improve our public information work, including vital vaccine outreach in the coming months.”

“We are so pleased to award the 2021 Leighton Memorial Grant Award to Neighbors Together for Good for all they have done to support their local community during a time of such uncertainty and need,” said Tanir Ami, chief executive officer of the CARESTAR Foundation.

“Particularly impressive was the coalition’s ability to pool resources and expertise from key stakeholders ranging from nonprofits, local government, community leaders, and neighborhood volunteers to serve a population that we know has been disproportionately affected by COVID-19. The fact that this work has led to a formal development of the region’s local emergency response capabilities really made them stand out with the selection committee."

An expert in the areas of non-profit foundation development, operations, finance, and investment management, Jeff Leighton was instrumental in helping CARESTAR incorporate as an organization. His illness and subsequent death during this process led the Board of Directors to establish the Leighton Memorial Grant Award to recognize Leighton’s outstanding contributions to the CARESTAR Foundation, and to support regions that often find themselves without critical medical care for residents, something Leighton and his family experienced during his own health struggles.

About the CARESTAR Foundation

The CARESTAR Foundation was founded in 2017 as a result of the sale of CALSTAR (California Shock Trauma Air Rescue), an air ambulance company, and honors CALSTAR’S legacy and lifesaving work in the field of emergency and trauma transport and care. CARESTAR’s mission is to improve health outcomes for all Californians, by applying a racial equity lens to fund and advocate for improvements to our emergency response system. www.carestarfoundation.org

 


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