A West Virginia Nonprofit Builds on Success

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July 29, 2011; Source: The Charleston Gazette | At a time when federal and state budget cutbacks are presenting nonprofit leaders with an unending series of financial challenges, a faith-based West Virginia nonprofit is in the fortunate and unexpected position of expanding. The Charleston Gazette is reporting that as a result of a $60,000 two-year startup grant from West Virginia’s Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR), Kanawha Institute for Social Research and Action, KISRA www.kisra.org, will open a family planning clinic on August 1 in Dunbar, West Virginia, where it will offer free and low-cost contraceptives, STD counseling and other health services, such as cancer screenings, to local residents.

The expansion is notable not only because funds for family planning programs are being cut nationwide but also because it is the direct result of the impact that the nonprofit has been having with one specific group: local fathers. The Charleston Gazette points out that KISRA initiated its now successful Responsible Fatherhood Program in 2006, and since then has “provided financial education, employment training and family counseling to nearly 1,000 fathers across the state.” Providing analysis on DHHR’s support of her organization’s program, Michelle Foster, KISRA’s Chief Executive Officer, explained, “They figured we would reach a unique [demographic] beyond the traditional family planning programs.”

Established in 1993 by members of the Ferguson Memorial Baptist Church, KISRA today provides 13 separate educational, employment and economic programs for thousands of individuals and families in five West Virginia counties. Although Michelle Foster noted that the family planning clinic was “not something we started off thinking would happen,” she now has a staff of three — a doctor, a nurse practitioner and an assistant — ready to see patients three days a week. Referring to the specific impact of budget cuts on health programs, Foster said, “The poor and the marginalized are going to be greatly affected and that is a great concern to us, but we will do the best we can and stretch the resources the best we can and see where the chips fall.” –Anne Eigeman