‘Optimism is an act of revolution’ and other lessons from 2021 Community Learning Grantees

‘Optimism is an act of revolution’ and other lessons from 2021 Community Learning Grantees

Until Feb. 1, 2023, we were Group Health Foundation. This post was written under our former identity. To learn more about our new name, read our announcement here.

Images provided by: Wa Na Wari, Southwest Washington Communities for Change, and Community to Community.


We’re delighted to announce that we’ve granted 70 organizations $15 million in Community Learning Grants to support their work across Washington State. Each grantee will receive up to $225,000 in flexible funding over the course of three years to further their efforts in self-determined directions.

Community Learning Grants give us fresh opportunities to learn from and build relationships with organizations who are reflective of and rooted in the communities they serve. Through this fund, we seek to support groups and nonprofits that have frequently been overlooked by philanthropy or have yet to be introduced to institutional funders.

This year’s recipients represent more than 25 Washington counties, working in big and mid-size cities, suburban communities, rural and unincorporated communities, and tribal lands. They join nearly 150 organizations from all regions of the state who received a Community Learning Grant in 2019 and 2020.

See the full list of 2021 Community Learning Grant recipients.

We saw this year’s open call for proposals as a chance to both reflect on the past and look toward the future. For every grant fund we develop, we take notice of underrepresented geographies and missing lived experiences. This time, for example, we wanted to engage more with African immigrants, Indigenous people, including Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders, and organizations by and for people of color who are disabled or who are part of the LGBTQ+ community. We also sought to build more relationships with organizations in the Tri-Cities area and the southwest and southeast regions of our state.

While we have made progress in establishing bonds with and in these communities, we know we have more work to do. We are committed to asking ourselves hard questions about where we need to build deep relationships. This will always be a cornerstone of our work and does not stop with a single grantmaking fund. Our Community Learning Grants don’t stand alone; each grant is a puzzle piece that fits into the larger picture of Group Health Foundation.

As our work continues, we will remain humbled by what we have already learned from these 70 new relationships. The 2021 Community Learning grantees are creatively disrupting the status quo in pursuit of a flourishing future for all. They are reminding us that the people closest to a problem are also closest to its solution, and that there are many paths to pursue in the work for health equity.

Several of these organizations are meeting their communities at the intersection of experiences, like Abused Deaf Women’s Advocacy Services, which serves Deaf and DeafBlind survivors of domestic abuse across the state, and Rainbow Advocacy Inclusion and Network Services (RAINS) in Cowlitz County, who work for the rural LGBTQ+ community.

Other organizations provide a sense of place for their people. Washington Multicultural Services Link, a Black-led organization in King County, serves the African diaspora, while the American Indian Community Center based in Spokane is a meeting place for urban Natives displaced by the Termination and Relocation Acts of the 1950s and 60s.

Still others are fighting against the insidious consequences of systemic racism. The Black Perinatal Project serving King and Snohomish counties sustains Black birthing workers while addressing issues facing Black birthing people. The Racial Equity Commission in Whatcom County, a cross-racial, women of color-led project, centers marginalized voices and builds the civic capacity of people dedicated to righting racial disparities.

Our application asks organizations to share what they wished for more people to understand about their communities and their efforts. Their responses vividly articulated the effects of compounding inequities faced by those with several marginalized identities, the often-overlooked historical context of American racism, the harm of stereotypes or too-broad ethnic categorizations, and the racist systems working to deny justice.

Yet, grantees were also clear-eyed in their optimism and certainty that, through solidarity and collective action, they can move Washington toward greater justice and joy. We are incredibly grateful to receive these insights and wish to close by sharing one voice emblematic of many, from the Racial Equity Commission:

“We’re mighty, resilient, and determined. We believe large scale systems work can be done and that may make us optimists. Holding that optimism in our hearts is in and of itself a constant act of revolution.”

2021 Community Learning Grant Recipients

See the 2019 and 2020 Community Learning Grant recipients here.

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Organization Description Service area
Abused Deaf Women’s Advocacy Services ADWAS is a Deaf and survivor-centered organization, providing fully accessible supportive housing with on-site support services for Deaf and DeafBlind survivors of domestic violence. ADWAS provides comprehensive services to individuals and families, community education, and advocacy on systems and policy issues. Services are available to survivors in the Deaf community. Statewide, primarily in Clark, King, Pierce, Skagit, Snohomish, Spokane, Whatcom, and Yakima counties
Access To Our Community Access To Our Community works to protect safe, affordable housing for East African immigrant and refugee communities in South King County. Affiliated with Abubakr Islamic Center, ATOC provides myriad support services and is dedicated to building human, social, and physical capital in our community. King (Kent, Federal Way, SeaTac, and Tukwila) and Pierce counties
American Indian Community Center In the devasting aftermath of termination and relocation, the American Indian Community Center formed in 1967 as a gathering place for urban Indians. It soon began to serve Spokane’s growing Indigenous community with workforce development, food distribution, and other services. Adams, Asotin, Lincoln, Spokane, and Stevens counties
Allied People Offering Year-round Outreach APOYO is a food pantry by and for Latin American immigrants and migrants in Central Washington. It is supported by the work of clients, community members, and Central Washington University. Currently housed at the college’s campus, it offers education about im/migrant experiences, culture, and language. Kittitas, Grant, and Yakima counties
ASHHO ASHHO’s vision is to unite people of all cultures through food, education, and gatherings. The ASHHO Cultural Community and Job Training Center provides a space, particularly for communities of color, to connect, share resources, develop skills, and network. Thurston County
Asian Pacific Islander Coalition Spokane APIC-Spokane is a multi-generational group of progressive APIs who represent the vast diversity of the APIs who live and serve in the Spokane area. It works in coalition with other BIPOC leaders to build a more equitable city, as it fights white supremacist systems that keep APIs in the margins. Spokane and Stevens counties
Asian Pacific Islander Coalition Yakima Valley Chapter APIC-Yakima promotes diversity, racial equality, immigrant rights, and BIPOC coalition building. Advocacy on the path to naturalization, voter registration, and voting are the primary coalition building blocks for civic empowerment and new leadership. Benton, Kittitas, and Yakima counties
Black Perinatal Project BPP is a peer-led collective that supports and sustains Black birth workers, creates a pipeline for new Black birth workers, and serves as an organizing network to address the systemic issues impacting both Black birthing people, their families, and the birth workers who serve them. King and Snohomish counties
Brothers United In Leadership Development BUILD focuses on issues that impact Black men and boys. BUILD’s focus is on Black communities in Seattle, South King County, and beyond. Its work is where the Black community lives, works, studies, plays, and grows. King and Pierce counties
Center for Independence CFI is a grassroots, mission-driven organization that serves people with all disabilities and is led and run by people with disabilities. Whatcom, Skagit, Snohomish, Island, San Juan Island, South King, Pierce, and Thurston counties
Center for Indigenous Midwifery Center for Indigenous Midwifery is an Indigenous-led educational organization. It is committed to supporting the health and well-being of pregnant and parenting families through culturally-centered resources and family support. Statewide and other communities in the Pacific Northwest
Change the Narrative CTN is a BlPOC-led organization that promotes diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility work through education on antiracism, youth mentoring, networking with community organizations, advocacy for equitable policy, procedures, and more for underserved populations. Rural areas of Snohomish County
Comunidad Latina de Vashon CLV is radically led by its community leaders and centers youth leaders. Youth create, lead trainings, programs, and practices that are rooted in cultural pride and relational support systems, modeling ways to build powerful leadership. King and Pierce counties
Cowlitz Wahkiakum Legal Aid CWLA seeks to assure justice for low-income people in civil courts. It provides legal help for those whose livelihoods, families, and wellness are threatened, and helps people restore rights, vacate criminal records, eliminate legal fines, and stay housed and connected to family. Cowlitz and Wahkiakum counties
Disability Action Center NW Inc Disability Action Center NW is a disability-run nonprofit that serves disabled people. It provides peer-based individual empowerment services and community education on disability issues. Eastern Washington and North Idaho
Downtown Pasco Development Authority DPDA’s mission is to strengthen and develop Downtown Pasco as a center for culture, business, and community spirit. Its vision is to continue enhancing Downtown Pasco as an economically vibrant, culturally diverse destination for a family-friendly experience. Benton, Franklin, Spokane, Walla Walla, and Yakima counties, and neighboring communities in Oregon
Empowering Latina Leadership & Action ELLA is a Latina-led social justice organization focused on advocacy and leadership development to increase Latina representation as key decision-makers across all sectors of community, working toward economic, educational, political, and social equity. Yakima County
Ethiopian Community in Seattle Located in Southeast Sattle, ECS serves immigrants and their families from Ethiopia and East Africa. It provides social services as well as long-term programs that address root causes of problems in health, education and housing systems to empower communities to thrive. King County, specially Southeast Seattle, Des Moines, Tukwila, Renton, and SeaTac
Fabian’s Fund Fabian’s Fund supports the sustainability of healthy, vibrant, and thriving Black and Brown communities to address the destructive impacts of mass incarceration, the school-to-prison pipeline, and gentrification. Clallam, Clark, Franklin, Grays Harbor, Jefferson, King, Mason, Pierce, Spokane, Thurston, and Walla Walla counties
Filipino Community Health Board The Filipino Community Health Board offers community-based health programs and services to Filipinos in King County. It supports community through research and education, health services, policy and advocacy to address health disparities, and resource mobilization. King County
Formerly Incarcerated Group Healing Together F.I.G.H.T is an organization founded and led by Asian American and Pacific Islander men formerly incarcerated in the Washington State prison system. It supports current and formerly incarcerated AAPIs through holistic mentorship, outreach, and advocacy. Statewide
Gambian Talents Promotion GTP provides COVID-19 education and prevention for West Africans in Washington. It offers grocery and cash assistance, English and Islamic studies, afterschool programs, traditional marriage counseling, transportation, access to technology, and more. King, Pierce, and Snohomish counties and neighboring communities in Oregon and British Columbia
Gather Together Grow Together Gather Together Grow Together designs creative solutions to age-old problems faced by low-income residents. Taking a holistic approach, it aims to remove barriers to self-sufficiency while paying acute attention to the African American community. King, Kitsap, and Pierce counties
Greater Spokane Progress GSP brings the combined power of over 40 organizations to support campaigns and organizing efforts of aligned organizations, coalitions, and impacted communities throughout the Spokane region. Spokane County
Healing of the Canoe Training Center The Healing of the Canoe Training Center provides training and technical support to Tribes and Tribal Organizations that are adapting or implementing the Healing of the Canoe curriculum. Clallam, Jefferson, King County, Kitsap, and Pierce counties, and neighboring communities in Alaska, Idaho, and Oregon.
Health and Justice Recovery Alliance Health and Justice Recovery Alliance addresses the disproportionate impact of mass incarceration on BIPOC. They take a client-centered approach to provide crisis management, address root causes of addition, and address the root causes of addiction and cycles of violence. Spokane County
Innovations Human Trafficking Collaborative IHTC is an Indigenous and survivor-led social justice organization dedicated to providing a lifeline of support, resources, and guidance for human trafficking survivors throughout the Puget Sound region. IHTC provides crisis response, community education, and advocacy. King, Lewis, Mason, Pierce, and Thurston counties
Institute for Black Justice The Institute for Black Justice centers Black people in its vision for true justice: no exceptions. IBJ narrates the complexities of Black life, cultivates the power of collective action and allyship, and illuminates the path to justice system transformation. Pierce County
LANGSTON LANGSTON is a nonprofit arts organization guided by its founding vision of Cultivating Black Brilliance. From its home base in the historic Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute in Seattle’s Central District, it serve Black artists and community throughout Washington State. King County
Latino Educational Training Institute For more than 24 years, LETI has served as an anchor for local immigrants and low-income households, providing the bridge between this underserved community and the resources available to them to facilitate their resiliency and social equity. Skagit and Snohomish counties
Latinos Unidos Grant County Latinos Unidos Grant County is a local grassroots organization and member of Washington Immigrant Solidarity Network. It educates, protects, and promotes the rights of immigrant communities. Adams and Grant counties
Lewis County Autism Coalition Lewis County Autism Coalition promotes inclusion, acceptance, and success for neurodiverse people and their families. Since 2010 it has piloted and sustained programs that are recognized and replicated statewide. It centers autistic voices in their leadership and organizational culture. Clark, Cowlitz, Grays Harbor, Lewis, Mason, Pacific, Thurston, and Wahkiakum counties
Lopez Island Family Resource Center LIFRC serves a rural community addressing social issues and geographic isolation. LIFRC works alongside the community, with bottom-up cooperation, horizontal networks of solidarity, and mutual support. San Juan County
Modest Family Solutions Inc Modest Family Solutions builds capacity for the BIPOC community in agroecology education, career development, and a youth entrepreneur empowerment network with incorporation of Afro-centric education to protect ecosystems in the Pacific Northwest. Columbia, King, Kitsap, Pierce, Skagit, Snohomish counties, and neighboring communities in Oregon
Native American Reentry Services NARS’ mission is to address barriers faced by Native peoples who find themselves struggling to transition from a life of incarceration to freedom. Its goal is to reduce recidivism through traditional means. Clallam, Clark, Franklin, Grays Harbor, Mason, Pierce, Snohomish, Spokane, Thurston, and Walla Walla counties
NCW Equity Alliance The NCW Equity Alliance focuses on community-based education, advocacy, and reconciliation in the diverse, predominantly rural communities of North Central Washington. Chelan, Douglas, and Okanogan counties
Northwest Credible Messenger NWCM serves and provides capacity building services for Black and Brown new and emerging youth leaders and previously incarcerated leaders to have access and opportunity interventions, services, and programs. King, Kitsap, Pierce, Spokane, and Yakima counties
Odyssey World International Education Services Odyssey World International Services is a Black-led, all-volunteer organization advocating for social justice and educational equity, serving immigrants and refugees of African descent, as well as other marginalized communities. Southwest Washington
Opportunities Industrialization Center of Washington OIC is a nonprofit community action agency serving low-income individuals and households. Its focus is to strengthen program supports through a shared vision and common goals. Adams, Benton, Chelan, Douglas, Franklin, Grant, Okanogan, Skagit, Walla Walla, and Yakima counties
Our Place/Nuestra Casa Multicultural Center Our Place Nuestra Casa provides support to BIPOC and all vulnerable community members living in Clark and Cowlitz County. It is rooted in services, support, and empowering community. Southwest Washington
Our Sisters’ House Our Sisters’ House provides services and programs specifically for the Black and African American community. It offers domestic violence legal and family advocacy, support groups, and mental health counseling. OSH also works with youth on teen dating violence awareness and intervention, and provides services to victims of commercial sexual exploitation. Pierce County
Pacific County Voices Uniting Pacific County Voices Uniting works to improve civic engagement, build opportunities, and provide community space for BIPOC folks. Pacific County
Pacific Islander Health Board of WA The Pacific Islander Health Board of Washington serves Pacific Islander communities throughout Washington State. Statewide
Peace & Justice Action League of Spokane PJALS believes everyday people can accomplish extraordinary things together. The group organizes to challenge elitist power and win racial equity, economic justice, peace, and human rights. Spokane and other areas in Eastern Washington
Racial Equity Commission A cross-racial, women of color-led project, the REC is a multi-racial, quasi-governmental entity centering marginalized voices, prioritizing equity, and building the civic capacity to address systemic racism and end racial disparities. Whatcom County
Rainbow Advocacy Inclusion & Networking Services RAINS is a rural, grassroots nonprofit organization that is devoted to advocating for, creating visibility, educating, and serving the Rainbow (LGBTQ+) population in Cowlitz County. RAINS works to eliminate the stigma and discrimination its community faces. Cowlitz County
Renton Innovation Zone Partnership RIZP supports students and families at four elementary schools in two racially diverse neighborhoods. The schools are Bryn Mawr, Lakeridge, Campbell Hill, and Highlands. Renton School District, specifically Renton Highlands and Skyway-West Hill in unincorporated King County
Rural Resources Community Action snx̌əstwilxtn supports Indigenous victims of crime, violence, and abuse in Northeastern Washington through an anti-oppressive and culturally responsive lens. Colville Indian Reservation and in Ferry, Lincoln, and Stevens counties
Ryan’s House for Youth RHFY serves homeless at-risk youth and young adults on Whidbey Island. It provides diversion, outreach, and supportive services to all young people through drop-in centers, street-based outreach, as well as emergency and transitional housing for young adults. Whidbey Island
Snohomish County Black Heritage Committee SCBHC was created to enhance and educate the community about the heritage and contributions made by African Americans. SCBHC is developing a more inclusive society by promoting unity and fellowship while showcasing the beautiful richness of African American culture. Snohomish County
Somali Family Safety Task Force The Task Force serves Somali community members wherever they reside. The majority of families that participate in its programs are located in South Seattle and the New Holly neighborhood. King County
Somali Youth and Family Club SYFC is a refugee-led, ethnic minority organization that has served King County residents for over a decade. SYFC was founded by a group of immigrant and refugee families that felt their needs were not being met through mainstream programs and organizations. King County
Spokane Tribal Network The Spokane Tribal Network provides prevention and support services to the Spokane Tribal Community through collaborative programming that lifts up traditional indigenous values and systems, helping to heal a people wounded by historical trauma. Ferry, Lincoln, Spokane, and Stevens counties
Student Health Options doing business as The Health Center The Health Center advances the success of students by addressing their physical, emotional, and social needs. School-based clinics allow students to access care without having to worry about transportation, stigmas, or pressures from home. Walla Walla
Sông2Sea S2S is a multi-ethnic organizing collective with ancestral roots in Vietnam. The word sông means river. Just as rivers are a source of life, movement, and human connection, S2S extends the spirit through education, community outreach, and mobilizing aid for marginalized people in the Puget Sound Coast Salish region. King, Pierce, and Snohomish counties
Taala Fund Taala Fund is a Native community development financial institution that serves the Quinault Nation reservation residents and employees, and Quinault Tribal citizens wherever they live. Grays Harbor and Jefferson counties
Teenagers Plus Teenagers Plus amplifies the voice of immigrants, asylees, and refugees from African countries by advocating for inclusion, elimination of economic and psycho-social barriers, and creating programs that promote visibility, equity, and cultural relevance. King, Pierce, and Spokane counties
Terrain Programs Terrain is a community-building organization using the social power of art and creativity to transform Spokane. It amplifies voices that typically don’t get a seat at life’s many tables. Spokane County
The Brave Warrior Project The Brave Warrior Project serves the social, therapeutic, and play needs of all children living with chronic health conditions, developmental disabilities, autism, and cancer alongside families. Chelan, Douglas, Okanogan, and Grant counties
The Hawk Foundation for Research and Education in African Culture The Hawk Foundation for Research and Education in African Culture is an African American-led organization. It addresses racial disparities in education and mental health services with innovative curriculum and healing modalities rooted in Afrocentric music, drumming, and culture. King, Pierce, and Thurston counties
The Hispanic Business Professional Association HBPA of Spokane offers direct services in four areas: human and social services, business/economic development, community and student engagement, and foundation. Adams and Spokane counties
The Young Warrior Society first foods and family The Young Warrior society-first foods and family is an Indigenous-led initiative on the Colville Indian Reservation. It provides education and resources from cultural traditions and food security practices to promote health, healing, happiness, and humanity. Chelan, Ferry, Grant, Okanogan, and Spokane counties
Tri-Cities Diversity & Inclusion Council TCD&IC’s primary focus is supporting those with marginalized identities (BIPOC, youth, victims, LGBTQ+, etc.), in addition to educating those with dominant identities on DEI best practices. The Tri-Cites and greater Mid-Columbia area
Unity Center The Unity Center serves the community’s most vulnerable youth through mentoring, afterschool programming, and summer and holiday camps. Its goal is to help youth find the path to their light and to provide a safe place where they can learn and grow while being seen and loved. Clark County
Up From Slavery Initiative UFSI is a grassroots organization focusing on education in the following subjects: racial justice, financial literacy, and Wellness. Programs are built for people of color and for institutions that service them. Kitsap County
UTSAV UTSAV is a culturally specific, community-powered service organization founded, led, governed by, and serving South Asians in Washington. UTSAV leads powerful work to advance health, economic, and social equity in marginalized and underrepresented communities. Statewide and neighboring communities in British Columbia
Washington Family Engagement Washington Family Engagement equips parents and children of color to become actively engaged leaders in their communities, and to dismantle systems of oppression that have led to longstanding inequities. King, Lincoln, Mason, Okanogan, Snohomish, Whatcom, and Yakima counties
Washington Multicultural Services Link WMSL is a grassroots, family-driven organization. Its work is to empower and ensure quality of support services to Africa diaspora/African American families, especially individuals with disabilities and those with healthcare needs. King County
Whiteswan Environmental Whiteswan Environmental is a Native-led nonprofit addressing root causes of trauma for Indigenous Peoples and Nature in the Salish Sea. It works toward systems change through partnerships with bioregional land managers, academic institutions, and NGOs who share the mission of community healing. San Juan, Whatcom counties, and neighboring communities in British Columbia
WOW Women of Wisdom Tri-Cities WOW TriCities equips the underserved with valuable resources, funding, and coaching. It supports women and Black and marginalized communities with leadership, business skills, technical skills, and financial literacy, with equity as their aim. Benton and Franklin counties