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Local nonprofits get $66,000 in grants

Five nonprofit agencies in Merced County that help the poor get health care have themselves been helped by grants from Mercy Medical Center Merced.

A total of about $66,000 was handed out to the Girl Scouts, Merced Lao Family, the Asthma Coalition, the Cerebral Palsy Association of Merced County and the Merced County Health Care Consortium.

“This county has a tremendous need for support and care like these grants,” said John Alexander, executive director of the health care consortium. Alexander’s group got the biggest grant, totaling $24,115.

Alexander said the money will be used to provide health insurance for 25 uninsured children in the county for a year. The consortium is made up of the safety-net health providers in the county, the groups that take care of the uninsured and the underserved.

“Almost 100 percent of this money will go to provide stopgap insurance for kids who wouldn’t have insurance otherwise,” Alexander said.

About 15 groups in Merced applied for the grant money, according to Janice Wilkerson, mission integration director for Mercy. The money comes from donations from the member hospitals of Mercy’s parent company, Catholic Healthcare West.

“We give nonprofit health care organizations the opportunity to apply for this money,” said Wilkerson. “The money has to stay in the county.”

That’s just where the grant money that the Merced Lao Family got will stay. Joua Lee, program director for Lao Family, said that the $9,115 grant will help fund the mental health program for Southeast Asians in Merced.

“Mental illness is a problem that isn’t talked about by Southeast Asians, and isn’t understood,” Lee said. The money will provide peer support for the mental health clients and will be used to do social activities, such as field trips.

The Girl Scouts in Merced County received a grant of $11,115 and will be used to provide health-focused programs at four sites in the county where girls may not be involved in Girl Scouts.

Barbara England, director of fund development for the county’s Girl Scout troops, said that girls will be taught about personal hygiene, healthy eating and exercise.“What we are really doing is providing girls who live in public housing the benefits of the traditional Girl Scout program,” England said.

The cerebral palsy group was given $9,115, and John Russell-Curry, present of the association, said the money will be used for camp scholarships, buying hand controls for cars or outfitting vans with wheelchair lifts.

“Our group is unique because we have no overhead - every penny we get goes to help orthopedically challenged people,” Russell-Curry said.

A total of $12,615 in grant money was given to the Asthma Coalition for its smoking-cessation master training program.

“With this grant program, we are partnering with other groups in the community that are trying to improve the quality of life,” Wilkerson said.

Reporter Carol Reiter can be reached at (209) 385-2486 or