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Worthington non-profit awarded grant funds to help increase health care access

Seeds of Justice is one of 11 non-profits awarded funds by the Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation of Minnesota.

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Seeds of Justice volunteers Than Than (from left), Jessica Velasco, Leticia Rodriguez, Aida Simon, Aisha (Adyiam) Kimbrough, Javier Aldana and Nancy Landeros assisted with a vaccination clinic in mid-September at St. Mary's Catholic Church in Worthington. (Tim Middagh / The Globe)

WORTHINGTON — Seeds of Justice, a Worthington-based nonprofit, was one of 11 entities in Minnesota to receive grant money from Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation in an effort to increase access to health care coverage. Over a two-year commitment, Blue Cross Blue Shield will provide grant funds to advance racial and health equity for Minnesotans.

Seeds of Justice will receive $140,000 from the foundation — one of the larger grant amounts to be awarded, according to Bukata Hayes, vice president of racial and health equity at Blue Cross and Blue Shield Minnesota.

“We deeply understand the work that Seeds of Justice is doing and its critical nature to access coverage in the Worthington area,” said Hayes. “We were eager to partner with a trusted community-based organization.”

The grant comes after Worthington was identified as a “hot spot” for high uninsurance rates, with 10.4% of the population identified as being without insurance, according to the State Health Access Data Assistance Center. Blue Cross Blue Shield has hopes that with these additional funds, Seeds of Justice will be able to better understand barriers to accessing health care and will connect community members with available resources.

“Worthington is one of the most diverse communities in the state, so when it comes to addressing issues around access to coverage, we see Worthington as an important place to do this work to learn and apply in other communities across the state.”

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For Aida Simon and Letty Rodriguez, two representatives with Seeds of Justice, this grant is something they are incredibly grateful for. The Blue Cross Blue Shield grant will allow Seeds of Justice to broaden its network of leaders across the community to do more outreach and authentic community engagement.

“With this support, we can make our work more structured and sustainable in the future,” said Simon. “We’re continuing to network, continuing to build, continuing to bring visibility to Worthington and all the barriers going on.”

This grant, says Rodriguez, is also part of what will allow Seeds of Justice to look into other issues facing communities of color. Health insurance is important, but it isn’t always a priority for people who are also in need of food, shelter or a job. She points to many different areas that can impact a person’s access to healthcare or health insurance, from not having the means of transportation to get healthcare when it’s necessary, to the language barriers that can keep people isolated from understanding what access they do have.

“There’s just a lot … as far as health, health insurance and health equity," Rodriguez said. “There is a lot to dive into for what health means for some people.”

That’s why making people in the community aware of resources, particularly in terms of healthcare, is such a big concern for Seeds of Justice. What has helped the organization succeed in those efforts is a willingness to meet people on their own terms. Simon said it’s about taking the time to listen and understanding how people of different cultures interact.

“How do you get the message across, and not rushing it and just doing it the dominant culture’s way, because that doesn’t work,” said Simon. “We have to take the time to really understand all these individuals.”

As part of that effort, Seeds of Justice organizes events with different “ambassadors” — community members who can speak the language and help translate information in a way people can understand. Simon highlights the importance of investing in the education and training of these community members, so Seeds of Justice can honor the time and efforts of both the people involved, as well as those they're trying to reach.

“Just being respectful of the different cultural views and creating that space for people to come in and do what they need to do, helps make us effective,” Simon said.

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Seeds of Justice hopes to eventually have a community center in Worthington — to create a space designed with the city’s BIPOC and minority populations in mind, which will help foster community connections while allowing easier access to available resources and information in one convenient space.

“We want to be a part of the decision making,” said Simon. “We want to sit at those tables and be able to make the decision that impacts our community members that we see, on a daily basis, suffering. So we are stepping up to the plate, but the barrier is huge. It’s going to take time, but what is it going to take for our community to get better is what we're trying to really understand and figure out here.”

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