The Fund for Wellesley Wednesday night awarded its first two grants: one to the Wellesley Health Department for a suicide prevention program and a second to the town’s Council on Aging to expand volunteer coordination.
The Health Department will use its $15,000 grant for an effort that will include a program called QPR (Question, Persuade, Refer) that will involve training community members to identify and help those who might be at risk of suicide. Also in the works: A website to support the effort.
Fund community board chair Susan Hurwitz noted at the award ceremony at Wellesley Country Club that while the suicides of young people in Wellesley in recent years has gotten much attention that this program will address suicide concerns involving people of all ages. Shep Cohen, chair of the Board of Health, said one goal is to make it so that QPR will increase the public’s understanding of mental health like CPR has helped with understanding of heart disease.
The Council on Aging will use its $20,000 grant to hire a coordinator to enhance and expand volunteer services for seniors. Currently, a lot of seniors wind up calling the police and fire departments for help, but this program would look to tap all sorts of residents by matching their areas of expertise with senior needs. It could involve everything from walking pets to setting up cellphones.
Fund organizers say their effort is unusual in a number of ways, including that it will be proactive about soliciting potential grant recipients (as opposed to just picking and choosing among applicants who apply on their own). The Fund is also on the lookout to support projects that already have some infrastructure in place, like town agencies, and that have natural networks in place with existing organizations within Wellesley or in other communities. In addition to examining issues such as senior citizen engagement and youth development, the Fund is also exploring areas such as improving transportation options in town and increasing volunteerism.
The Fund for Wellesley’s overall purpose is to encourage residents to take care of their own by establishing and growing a permanent fund that can be used to address short- and long-term needs as well as exploit opportunities that typical town government agencies can’t necessarily take on because of their budget cycles.
The Fund’s initial goal is to assemble a group of 125 founders/founding families who will donate $5,000 apiece. Despite a tough economy, the Fund has raised or been pledged a total of about $300,000, so it’s off to a good start.