Recently, I had a chance to see firsthand the impact of St. Charles’ Community Benefit program, which gives thousands of dollars in grant funding to community organizations throughout Central Oregon each year.

On a recent Tuesday morning, I had the honor of presenting a $30,000 grant to the La Pine Senior Activity Center to help the facility pay for a much-needed kitchen remodel and new commercial ovens.

This work is vital in La Pine, where the center provides nutritious meals to 60 to 90 community members every week. In a town of a few thousand folks, that is a significant number of people who depend on the center for food.

While I was there, I met a staff member named Barbara, who calls herself “the baker.” She has been putting the new ovens to good use, making treats for patrons of the center.

“There are really no words,” she said. “I love it so much!”

That day, I was reminded of what an important role senior centers play in our communities. By providing a place for seniors to gather, they help to reduce social isolation and give people a place where they belong and can make connections with others.

As you may already know, St. Charles’ Community Benefit program recently announced its grant priority for the next three years: reducing loneliness and increasing belonging in Central Oregon. We’re calling this effort Celebrate, Together; Celebrando Juntos, and the goal is to direct thousands of dollars in grant funding to organizations that are creating opportunities for communities to connect in person.

We’re doing that because we know that isolation, loneliness and depression affect more than just the individual experiencing them. They are root causes of a variety of health problems and societal issues, and we believe that by bringing people together and helping them connect with others, we can make a positive impact on their health and the health of our community.

That’s why we’re here. It’s one reason St. Charles has a Community Benefit program. And it’s why seniors in La Pine will be able to come together and enjoy Barbara’s baked treats for the foreseeable future.

The health system is now accepting grant applications, and community-based groups, nonprofit organizations, education systems and tribal entities that serve youth, older adults and/or vulnerable populations are encouraged to apply. Applications are due Sept. 30. To learn more about the grant requirements and application process, visit our webpage.

Thanks, as always, for reading.

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