President's Letter to Community

President's Letter to Community

To Our Valued Community Partners,

As I reflect on the past 3+ years that I have had the privilege of working at the Empire Health Foundation (EHF), I am struck by the dramatic turmoil facing the country and directly impacting our region. From a global pandemic, to a groundswell social justice movement in response to George Floyd’s murder, to an ever widening political divide, to the increasing effects of climate change, we have been called to imagine a more equitable, just world. Recent events are demanding that we show up differently, and this is a challenge we at EHF do not take lightly.

With an increasing focus since 2021, our team has been digging into what it takes to achieve sustainable change toward health equity in our region. We’ve examined where and how our actions, or inaction, have either supported or harmed the communities we serve. Throughout this process we’ve been honored by hundreds of neighbors who have shared visions, strengths and needs for their families and communities.

These conversations have both inspired and challenged us. They have clarified how EHF must evolve to offer the kinds of support required of us by the communities most affected by health inequities in our region. Alongside providing financial resources, EHF must leverage our connections, voice, knowledge and reputation in new ways. Authentic partnership requires a consistent focus that will guide us as we walk alongside community in the shared pursuit of health equity. 

Grounded in community feedback, we are committed to restoring resources to the communities most impacted by systemic oppression: Black, Indigenous and other People of Color (BIPOC), the 2SLGBTQIA+ community, people with disabilities and rural underserved communities. Our goal is to use our financial and institutional resources to help community organizations and leaders realize their visions for change. 

As the Inland Northwest’s largest private funder, we’re evolving to leverage this position to be of greater service to communities building power and pursuing justice. The time for that shift is now and we are committed to doing our part. 

As we develop a new 10-year strategic plan, our focus is on addressing persistent and historical injustices and restoring resources to communities whose health and well-being have been most impacted. In response to feedback, we shifted our grant making to prioritize these communities and fund their solutions. In 2023, we distributed $8.8 million across the region through 129 grants. More than half of those grant dollars went to BIPOC, 2SLGBTQIA+ and/or rural led and serving organizations. 

Many of you have engaged us in critical conversations these last three years that are shaping the future of our organization. This year will bring more opportunities to work alongside us, inform our work, and explore funding partnerships together. We also look forward to learning from you how we can meet critical community needs and deepen the ways we support and engage within and across communities.

It has been an incredible honor to support so many inspiring leaders and organizations in our region. On behalf of our team, thank you for placing your trust in us and for the time and energy so many of you have already committed to co-creating the next chapter for Empire Health Foundation. We are so excited to work with you in building a healthier and more just future for everyone in our region.

Let’s get to work,

Zeke Smith

President, Empire Health Foundation