Health Foundation Awards $200,000 to Organizations Dedicated to Rural Health Equity

Announcing New Rural Health Grantees

Funds made possible by 2022 grant from billionaire MacKenzie Scott

(BUFFALO AND SYRACUSE, NY) The Health Foundation for Western & Central New York has announced surprise, unrestricted grants to three organizations that are improving the health of rural communities and advancing health equity. Finger Lakes Community Health (FLCH), based in Sodus, NY; Providence Farm Collective (PFC), based in Orchard Park, NY; and Refugee and Immigrant Self Empowerment (RISE), based in Syracuse and Buffalo, received the funds.

The awards are made possible by a gift the Health Foundation received from billionaire philanthropist MacKenzie Scott in 2022. In 2023, the first use of the Scott gift included grants to six rural health networks across western and central New York to kick off the Health Foundation’s Transform Rural Health campaign.

To honor the spirit of trust in which the original funds were given, the Health Foundation awards these surprise grants with no strings attached, and no application or reporting requirements.

Finger Lakes Community Health (FLCH) received $100,000. FLCH is a federally qualified health center (FQHC) with 11 locations in the Finger Lakes region. FLCH provides high-quality primary care that includes medical, dental, reproductive health, and behavioral health services, regardless of a patient’s income and ability to pay. FLCH’s holistic, compassionate approach to care helps meet the unique health needs of this community, including many local farmers and farmworkers.

Providence Farm Collective (PFC) received $50,000. PFC was established in 2019 as a nonprofit organization with a mission of cultivating farmer-led and community-rooted agriculture and food systems for people from under-resourced communities, including those who are refugees, immigrants, Black, Indigenous, and people of color. PFC grew out of the Somali Bantu Community Farm, a three-year pilot launched in 2017 to address inequities in farmland and fresh food access.

Refugee and Immigrant Self-Empowerment (RISE) received $50,000. The mission of RISE is to advocate and promote self-sufficiency for refugees and immigrants. RISE offers the Syracuse Refugee Agricultural Program (SyRAP) to address food access needs of New Americans by providing classes on farming, marketing, and access to culturally relevant food for consumption or for participants to sell. The program currently operates three farms including Community Gardens on the northside of Syracuse, a mixed vegetable farm in Lacona (Oswego County), and a goat farm in Tully (Onondaga County).

In addition to the funds, each organization will have the opportunity to partner with the Health Foundation to produce a short video that will help them tell the story of their mission and impact.

“These three organizations exemplify the best of rural health: collaborative, personalized, and compassionate services, based on the idea that all people deserve their best chance at healthy lives,” said Nora OBrien-Suric, PhD, President, Health Foundation for Western & Central New York. “It is a privilege for the Health Foundation to provide these funds in the spirit of trust and partnership so that each organization can determine their best usage and make an even greater impact on the people we all serve.”

“This award is very special to us, particularly since it recognizes our work in rural areas. Our staff works very hard to provide health care access to our patients,” said Mary Zelazny, CEO, Finger Lakes Community Health. “In addition to the financial award, we’re pleased to have the Health Foundation help with producing a video. We often don’t have the time or financial resources to make videos which can be so very effective. Thank you to the Health Foundation for choosing us and the generosity of MacKenzie Scott.

“Providence Farm Collective exists because there are not systems in place that equitably provide affordable fresh food access or access to affordable farmland for new-entry farmers. The Health Foundation’s trust-based philanthropy, and more specifically through our receipt of this grant, demonstrates the Foundation’s belief in the value of Providence Farm Collective, in the gaps PFC farmers and programs are filling in our systems by implementing grassroots solutions for empowerment, and in how we are building cultural bridges across our region,” said Kristin Heltman-Weiss, Executive Director & President, Providence Farm Collective. “To be surprised by a no-strings-attached grant that allows our team to decide where that money gets spent is one dreamed about by all who work in nonprofit organizations. We are honored to receive this gift and look forward to collaborating with the Health Foundation.”

“RISE is incredibly grateful and wonderfully surprised by the opportunity provided through the Health Foundation for Western & Central New York.  In most cases, surprises concerning funding rarely result in good news. However, when we learned of the gift we were humbled by the faith shown in our organization and honored to be one of three awardees selected,” said Haji Adan, Executive Director, RISE. “The unrestricted nature of these funds will ensure RISE has the resources required to fill gaps to service delivery and continue to empower New American community members during their path to self-sufficiency.  Additionally, the opportunity to partner with the Health Foundation on a video showcasing the work RISE is engaged in will help to amplify our organization’s voice and bring attention to the communities we serve.”


The Health Foundation for Western & Central New York is an independent private foundation that advocates for continuous improvement in health and health care for the people and communities of Western and Central New York. The Health Foundation’s vision is a healthy central and western New York where racial and socioeconomic equity are prioritized so all people can reach their full potential and achieve equitable health outcomes. For more information, please visit   ###