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Community seed grant in review 2022: Trials of Color

Jan 04, 2023

Seed grant news feature (l-r) Brad Williams, MSPH, senior program coordinator for Community Outreach and Engagement at Massey; Sharon Rivera-Sanchez, Massey seed grant recipient; and Teya J. Whitehead, program coordinator for Community Outreach and Engagement at the Massey Cancer Resource Center - Lawrenceville, participated in an educational program in Petersburg, Va. 

The Trials of Color (TOC) “Teach One Reach One” project aims to raise colorectal cancer (CRC) awareness among underserved and minority populations in Petersburg, Va., with a special focus on prevention, screening and education in the Black community. In 2022, TOC received a $5,000 seed grant from the VCU Massey Cancer Center Community Grant Initiative to support its efforts.

“We educated the community about CRC in churches, outside community events, bus stations, social media and local newspapers in Petersburg,” explained Sharon Rivera-Sanchez, the TOC chief executive officer (CEO) and founder. “We were able to provide transportation, and by being out in the field we had an opportunity to network and build several partnerships.”

Through a partnership with Colorectal Cancer Alliance (CCA), TOC secured fecal immunochemical tests (FIT) to give to residents at no cost. FIT can detect hidden blood in the stool, which can be an early sign of cancer. At one distribution event, community members heard from U.S. Rep. Donald McEachin (D-Va.), who represented the 4th congressional district from 2017 until his death after his own battle with colorectal cancer on Nov. 28, 2022. 

“He took the microphone and encouraged everyone to come to our stand and get the kits, thereby lending a voice to our service,” said Rivera-Sanchez. “Our goals rest on early detection and screening from age 45 or earlier if symptoms are present. The community benefits by knowledge, power and education, through which some are beginning to change their attitudes toward and perception of the health care system.”    

Since April, TOC representatives have attended 11 events in the Petersburg area. It allowed them to reach more than 9,000 people by the end of November; they project reaching another 6,000 individuals by the end of the funding cycle.

TOC utilized the Massey grant by hiring contract workers. Increased marketing, including with social media, helped TOC spread its message. In addition to posts and videos, TOC held live webinars on Facebook and LinkedIn. The increased visibility has allowed TOC to make more connections and secure additional funding throughout the community.

“The Massey seed grant does not only provide an organization the opportunity to spread awareness, but it also sustains the feeling of humanity,” Rivera-Sanchez described. “There is a feeling of, ‘We are all that we have in this world,’ and that should be the ultimate and driving force of any organization.”

Aside from TOC, six other organizations received 2022 seed grants:

  • World U.P. Foundation (Richmond)
  • Vance Street Missionary Baptist Church (Danville)
  • Northern Neck Middlesex Free Health Clinic (Kilmarnock)
  • Virginia Breast Cancer Foundation (Richmond)
  • Fifth Baptist Church (Richmond)
  • Ebenezer Baptist Church (Richmond)

The awardees are all located within Massey’s catchment, the 66 counties and cities served by the cancer center; they span the eastern, central and southern portions of Virginia.

Launched in Dec. 2021, Massey’s Community Grant Initiative helps community partners expand programs focused on the promotion of health, health equity, person-centered care across the cancer continuum (from prevention through survivorship) and reducing suffering from cancer.

The Request for Applications (RFA) for Massey’s 2023 seed grants is open until Jan. 20; Massey will then score them on merit and notify the winners by Feb. 3, 2023.

Written by: Amy Lacey

This article is part of a series highlighting each of the seven 2022 seed grant recipients.

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