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Grants Address Loneliness In Central Oregon

BEND, OR -- St. Charles Health System recently awarded more than $80,000 in grants to eight local organizations combating loneliness. Community Benefits Manager Carlos Salcedo says pandemic lockdowns exacerbated an already growing problem, "A lot of those individuals went home, stayed home and never came back. So, we’re supporting those programs that are building programs and trying to get those people to come back, and building community."

Salcedo tells KBND News social engagement is an important component to overall physical and mental health, "And more and more data’s coming out that’s helping identify the fact that it does have a negative impact on individual health. And I think, as we move forward, what people are starting to realize is that it’s not just about the health of the individual that’s impacted. But it’s the health of a community."

Grant recipients include La Pine Middle School, SriPonya Collective in Warm Springs and the Redmond Senior Center. Trust for Public Land will use its grant for a community schoolyard at Madras Elementary. "Oregon Adaptive Sports, we’re supporting that. And that’s just about building the space for individuals to come together that are being served by those programs," says Salcedo. "We’ve funded the Council on Aging of Central Oregon, and they have programs that are helping connect senior citizens to individuals that can provide them ongoing conversation." Money is also headed to the National Alliance of Mental Illness of Central Oregon and Shepherd's House Ministries. 

This is the first round of St. Charles grants targeting loneliness, "We funded this in the fourth quarter of this year. We’re going to look to fund three more cycles in 2024, and then in 2025 again." But Salcedo says every individual can help prevent loneliness, "Saying hi, having conversations, reaching out, being friendly, being kind." And, if you’re struggling, reach out. "There is help out there. That’s the one thing to know. There’s more people that are kind than are not kind. It’s just that we’re afraid to engage."

 

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