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Massey seed grant year in review: Baptist General Convention of Virginia

Jan 31, 2024

Baptist General Convention of Virginia logo

Virginia Union University’s School of Theology founded the Baptist General Convention of Virginia (BGCV) in 1899. According to the BGCV, it operates by a mission to “unite and equip churches, ministries, associations and constituents to do holistic ministry that propagate the Gospel, advances the Kingdom of God and supports education and missions in Virginia and beyond.”

The BGCV partners with organizations, including VCU Massey Comprehensive Cancer Center, to provide opportunities to improve the overall wellness of communities. In 2023, Massey awarded $5,000 from the Community Grant Initiative to the BGCV to educate the Tri-Cities about lung and breast cancer.

Massey spoke with Ricardo L. Brown, D. Min., the third vice president of BGCV and the co-pastor of Fifth Baptist Church in Richmond, about the effort.

How did the BGCV use the Massey seed grant in efforts to improve cancer outcomes across Virginia?

We specifically targeted the Tri-Cities - Petersburg, Colonial Heights and Hopewell - to educate community members on breast and lung cancers. According to data, those three places have some of the worst rates of breast and lung cancers in the whole state. The BGCV reached out to 12 member churches and used them as sites for the program. The breast cancer piece is scheduled for January and February 2024, but we have already held several forums about tobacco use and vaping over the past few months. They gave pastors an opportunity to bring young people together with their parents and grandparents virtually or in person to talk about the effects of vaping and smoking, including increasing risks of developing lung cancer.

What has the BGCV learned from this partnership with Massey throughout 2023?

Through in-person and virtual conversations, we learned that children from elementary to high school have already been exposed to vaping and smoking. Parents and grandparents joined the young people for these forums, and they were very thankful to hear how kids face vaping and smoking on a daily basis so they can combat it. They want to continue their education at home about the dangers.

I completed a curriculum called CATCH My Breath, [an evidence-based youth nicotine vaping prevention program aimed at providing them with the skills they need to resist peer pressure and media influences to try e-cigarettes]. I used CATCH My Breath in the churches that had the largest number of young people. The parents were grateful for the message to kids that they should not even try it and will reinforce the risks.

Massey uses a “community-to-bench” model to ensure more consistent integration of community input into Massey’s cancer research, education, care and policy initiatives. How does the BGCV intend to continue guiding Massey's work in the areas of breast and lung cancer prevention?

We look forward to hearing feedback about the breast cancer talks because they will surely be eye opening for some congregations. But we can already share some action items that have come from the lung cancer programs held in 2023. There were nurses in attendance with their children in the vaping and smoking forums. These nurses had already participated in Massey’s Facts & Faith Fridays calls, so they are familiar with how the cancer center is working with the faith community and community at large to raise awareness about cancer risks. The nurses want to keep up the work of the lung cancer sessions. They are willing to help us seek additional funding, and they are now offering their own professional services to help educate our young people. Many of these nurses were born in the Tri-Cities, and it hurts them to see what is happening. They are determined to make a difference.

Why should eligible community organizations pursue this funding from Massey?

They should definitely seek out this funding if they have a passion for the community. COVID-19 showed the health needs in the Black community. We were hit hard. The Native Americans and Hispanic communities were too. During the pandemic, the BGCV helped to vaccinate thousands of people in Chesterfield County. The virus impacted the community, and we did our best to stay ahead of it. Now is the time for organizations to stay ahead of the next health challenge.

The BGCV is thankful that Massey opened up its seed grants to the faith-based community. We and other groups have to keep up the work. Hopefully when the next pandemic comes, we will be in a better place because communities are healthier in general because of ongoing efforts.

About the Community Grant Initiative

Launched in Dec. 2021, the Massey’s Community Grant Initiative helps community partners expand programs focused on the promotion of health, health equity, and person-centered care across the cancer continuum from prevention through survivorship, while also reducing suffering from cancer. In line with Massey’s 2021-2025 Strategic Plan, the initiative awarded seven $5,000 seed grants in 2022 and six in 2023.

In addition to BGCV, these five organizations received 2023 seed grants:

  • Us Giving Richmond Connections (UGRC)
  • Firefighter Cancer Support Network-Virginia (Richmond)
  • Greater Norfolk Medical Society of South Hampton Roads (Norfolk)
  • Hitting Cancer Below the Belt (Midlothian)
  • Virginia Community Health Worker Association (Richmond)

Massey will score the applications for 2024 seed grants on merit and expects to announce up to five recipients on Feb. 13, 2024.

Interview and article by: Amy Lacey

This article is part of a series highlighting each of the six 2023 seed grant recipients

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