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The History of the Fund



The Kansas West Conference of the United Methodist Church established and endowed United Methodist Health Ministry Fund to advance health, healing, and wholeness throughout Kansas. The endowment was a portion of the proceeds from the sale of Wesley Medical Center in Wichita (the hospital had been founded and supported by Kansas West and predecessor conferences). 22 charter trustees met in June.


The office opened in Hutchinson and Kim Moore was named the first President. In July, $22.6 million was transferred to the Fund. The first investment advisor was selected.


Twenty grants totaling $625,000 were awarded. In that first year of grantmaking, the Fund's first Chairperson, Rev. Janet Sevier Gilbreath, died. An annual Special Project Award was created and named in her honor. The first recipient was the United Methodist Western Kansas Mexican American Ministries for its medical clinic in Garden City. Dr. Dirk Hutchinson, Salina, became Chairperson. He served in that capacity until 1996.


An intergenerational initiative was developed to encourage generations to support each other, such as placing child care programs in long-term care facilities and building networks for mentoring children. The Health Fund office was relocated within Hutchinson.


An initiative to make Medicare-eligible hospice services available throughout Kansas was launched. By 1993, every region of Kansas was covered by a hospice program. The National Hospice Organization recognized the initiative with an award.


A children's health initiative task force was formed to explore opportunities for improving the health of children throughout Kansas. A church study was also developed on issues of health care access.


A special grant renewal program was developed. An investment manager changed for the first time since the Health Fund started work.


A Children's Health Initiative developed, which contributed to a statewide Children's Blueprint, the establishment of the Caring Program for Children (free insurance coverage for uninsured children in partnership with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas), and grants to establish and improve the quality of child care programs throughout the state over a number of years.


$10 million in grants had been awarded since the Health Ministry Fund was established. The first Kansas Parish Nurse Conference was sponsored, leading to increased interest in establishing programs in churches of all denominations.


Compeer programs to match a friend with a person with mental illness received funding and promotional support. Quality improvement in child care programs was another focus of grants.


At the 10th Anniversary, assets had mounted to $50 million. Alan Lindal, Wichita, was named the new Board Chair. Healthy Congregations, a program for Kansas United Methodist churches, was started.


Virginia Elliott joined the two-person staff as the Health Fund's first program officer. The Health Fund began providing more organizational training for nonprofits receiving grants.


An oral health initiative was launched and focused initially on improving access to dental care for children covered by Medicaid, increasing the use of sealants as a preventive measure for tooth decay, and expanding the adoption of water fluoridation. Other areas approved for funding included access to primary medical care, health ethics, and child care.


Assets reach $67.5 million. Kristine Dean and Jeff Gamber joined the staff. A series of management and leadership workshops were offered in partnership with the Kansas Nonprofit Association throughout the state to improve nonprofit organizations' governance and performance.


Grant supported the statewide expansion of Big Brothers Big Sisters programs. The Health Fund's first website was launched.


The 15th Anniversary ushered in Randy Peterson, Salina, as the fourth Chairperson of the Board. Stock market losses reduce assets from $73 million to $60 million. Grants totaling $27.8 million have been awarded since the Fund was established.


First Healthy Congregations Retreat for Kansas United Methodists engaged in health ministry is held at Horizon United Methodist Camp. Following Board strategic planning, three health issues are selected in which to focus grants for more statewide impact: access to health care, healthy nutrition and physical activity, and oral health. Online grant application and reporting system was implemented.


An oral health advisory group for the Health Fund's Healthy Teeth for Kansans campaign sparked development of a formal coalition -- Oral Health Kansas -- to work toward improved oral health practices and policies in Kansas through advocacy, education, and programs.


Jackie John, Phillipsburg, is named the fifth chairperson of the Board.


Healthy Congregations in Action is piloted with 18 Kansas United Methodist Churches to provide training and resources for effective health ministry. A leadership succession planning initiative was offered to help founding and long-term nonprofit executive directors plan for sustained organizational strength in case of leadership transition.


The 20th Anniversary saw assets of the Health Fund at $72 million. Total grants awarded since inception reached $45 million. The Health Through Faith and Community curriculum developed by the Health Fund was published and made available free of charge to Kansas United Methodist Churches.


A plan for improving access to affordable dental care by expanding dental services through a network of established Community Health Centers in Kansas was approved for funding and would receive two additional grants over four years.


Bear market investments fell from $69 million to $48 million. Healthy Congregations was evaluated and redesigned as a covenant program with Kansas United Methodist churches. Total grants awarded since starting exceeded $50 million.


Rev. Lance Carrithers, Dodge City, was named the seventh Board chairperson. A health reform guide was published to help consumers understand how the Affordable Care Act, the national health reform legislation passed in 2008, affects Kansas. Early childhood mental health was identified as a new priority for funding.


Nine communities were selected for Fit for Kansas Kids, an initiative to improve physical activity and nutrition for young children. Improving breastfeeding rates was identified as a strategy to prevent early childhood obesity and a program to assist businesses in adopting policies and practices to accommodate breastfeeding was funded.


Michael Gray joined the Health Fund as program assistant. The Fund celebrated 25 years and the investment of $55.5 million to improve the health of Kansans through more than 2,300 grants. Looking to the future, $53 million remains in assets to continue working toward healthy Kansans through strategic and cooperative philanthropy guided by Christian principles.


Following a lengthy review process, the Fund changed its investment advisor for the first time since its founding. The High 5 for Mom & Baby program was launched to promote hospital care that supports breastfeeding. A video resource for UM Staff Pastor Relations Committees to help facilitate a dialog around pastoral health was produced. Charter trustees were interviewed on video for a Fund oral history project. A $185,000 investment by Kansas health philanthropies including the Health Fund in a joint ACA Opportunity Fund resulted in $17 million in federal grants to expand the medical safety net in Kansas. The Kansas East, Kansas West, and Nebraska United Methodist Conference voted to merge. With the support of a $100,000 Fund grant, the Kansas Health Information Exchange went live, facilitating electronic health record storage and availability.


Katie (Ross) Schoenhoff joined the Health Fund as a program officer. The Fund implemented phase one of the Rural Health Systems Improvement Pilot Project with four Kansas communities. Amended and restated Articles of Incorporation were approved by the Kansas West Conference. A special grant opportunity for Healthy Congregations churches offered support for community gardens. Strategic planning work affirmed through 2016 a continued focus on access to care, young children's healthy lifestyles
(particularly breastfeeding), and young children's social emotional health. A self-care resource for retired and retiring clergy was finalized. The final Kansas East and Kansas West Annual Conferences were held, making way for the new Great Plains United Methodist Conference which includes Nebraska. An intense six-inch rain flooded many Hutchinson streets and buildings, including the Fund offices.


The Fund sponsored two opportunities for retired and retiring clergy to participate in workshops on health programs available to them and on self-care in retirement, using the new resource developed in 2013. Following an intensive 2013 review by a dedicated taskforce, the Healthy Congregations program was updated and availability expanded throughout Kansas and Nebraska (the area of the new Great Plains United Methodist Conference). A new program similar to giving circles, the Impact Funding Team, was launched to engage donors in the philanthropic process and to build new networks in specific fields of work. The 2014 team is focused on support for initiation and duration of breastfeeding. The Rural Health Systems Improvement Pilot Project work continued with extensive data analysis and planning for phase two of the project. A road trip to South Dakota to explore options for rural telemedicine was organized, with 33 Kansans participating. Staff was instrumental in organizing a Kansas Health Summit on Breastfeeding, providing education for medical professionals and resulting in several strategies for removing barriers and improving support for breastfeeding throughout Kansas.