GREENSBORO — The man had gotten out of prison with just a week's supply of his HIV medicine before connecting with the Triad Health Project.
Each week, families are able to trade in their food stamps for tokens that give them greater buying power — an extra dollar for each $2 spent — at the farmer's market.
The room is full of health care providers interacting with known experts on handling both the physical and mental needs of substance abusers.
These seemingly unrelated scenarios all have a common thread: the backing of the Cone Health Foundation, which for the last 20 years has helped support good health in the community.
The foundation invests $5 million annually in grants throughout Guilford County. It has invested a total of $86 million since 1997.
"I remember the conversations when it was coming together, and it has evolved into what is a wonderful thing," said Margaret Arbuckle, the incoming board chair.
As part of the celebration, the foundation will underwrite the meals on Monday at Greensboro Urban Ministry and will pick up the tab for flu shots during the Hot Dish and Hope meal program at First Presbyterian Church on Tuesday. Cone Health’s Congregational Nurses will provide up to 100 flu shots at the church, along with other basic health screenings.
On Wednesday, city buses will be free because Cone will pay for every ride. The gesture, at a cost of $7,700, comes with a message.
"Whether food or transportation, we wanted to be able to point to things that are barriers to folks getting healthcare," said Sandra Boren, one of the foundation's senior program officers. "We can have great medical providers in our community but if someone doesn't have a way to get there, then it doesn’t matter how good the medicine is or the care."
The foundation, which is a support agency for Cone Health Systems, provides funding mostly in four priority areas: access to health care; adolescent pregnancy prevention; HIV, and substance abuse and mental health.
"We’re trying to really impact systemic change," said Susan Shumaker, the foundation's president of their involvement.
The foundation was a catalyst, for example, for the Regional Center for Infectious Disease, which provides wraparound services for people with HIV and AIDS. Besides the foundation providing early funding, Boren helped bring together agencies and health professionals to make it happen.
"We’re so grateful to be able to invest that $5 million," Boren said of the various grant years. "The reality is that’s a drop in the ocean of needs that’s out there. If we can move policy in major ways in expanding access to health care, that can do so much more for our community."