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Over our 20-year history, Foundation for Community Health has granted more than $20 million and invested thousands of staff hours into serving our neighbors through technical support, referrals, relationship building, learning opportunities, and more.

Our birthday: June 3, 2003

When Sharon Hospital sold to for-profit Essent Healthcare, Inc. in June 2003, Connecticut law required that the $16 million in proceeds be transferred to a non-profit organization with a similar purpose. To fill that requirement, Foundation for Community Health was born to steward these public assets for the benefit of the 17-town region served by the hospital.

Originally organized as a Type III Functionally Integrated Supporting Organization to Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation, FCH was designated a “public Charity” —meaning that we could receive donations and lobby to the same extent as any other non-profit. We were also designated as the current and future recipient of all non-restricted income from legacies left in wills and trusts originally designated to go to the former Sharon Hospital.

Learn more about our origins: Decision of the Connecticut’s Attorney General and the Decision of the Superior Court of the State of Connecticut

Drafting our charter

As a brand-new organization, we faced the important question of how best to direct this unexpected $16 million (mostly unrestricted) windfall for the community. FCH’s locally appointed volunteer board took charge of where to focus, what to fund, and how much to allocate to each of our community’s priorities.

Our founding Board of Directors was a thoughtful, conscientious group. They welcomed regional philanthropic experts to early meetings to learn what it means to be a place-based philanthropy. Two things quickly became clear: first, FCH would be strategic, data-based, and purposeful in our approach to funding. Second, FCH would be an active, embedded member of the community so that we remained plugged into issues impacting our neighbors.

Under the guidance of Executive Director Nancy Heaton and informed by a robust community needs assessment, FCH formalized our first strategic framework. Our top priorities were outlined as access to health and health-related services with an emphasis on behavioral and oral health services.

FCH’s first chapter

Over the course of our first decade, FCH focused on deepening our connection with the communities we serve by developing relationships with local organizations and providers. We also established successful school-based oral health programs, a nursing degree program, and transportation services across New York and Connecticut.

By evaluating our progress at five-year intervals and remaining open and flexible to change, we were able to adjust our strategy and expand our services to meet community needs. For instance, when the Affordable Care Act was passed and Connecticut expanded Medicaid and established its own Health Insurance Exchange, we responded by supporting regional, in-person health insurance enrollment assistance to increase healthcare access.

Embracing change and meeting challenges

Between 2014 and 2017, a change in federal law required FCH to change our IRS status from a Type III to a Type I Supporting Organization. This years-long transition ultimately led to a broader, deeper relationship between FCH and the three community foundations we support as a non-profit public charity (501(c)3): Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation, Community Foundations of the Hudson Valley, and Northwest Connecticut Community Foundation.

In 2017, FCH donated $3 million to help the hospital convert back to a non-profit hospital.

In 2020, FCH joined the rest of the world in rising to meet an unprecedented health challenge: the COVID-19 pandemic. We worked with grantees to divert funds to critical pandemic response efforts by releasing restrictions on existing grants and increased our grantmaking budget, making 25 grants totaling more than $230,000 as part of our COVID-19 Rapid Response Grant Program.

We learned a lot from these changes and challenges, not the least of which is how much better our grantee partners were at responding to the needs of their constituents when they were provided flexibility.

Looking ahead

Over the last few years, FCH has worked to show up for our neighbors with even more efficiency and transparency. Our new strategic framework, adopted in 2021, expands the aperture of our work to address the underlying conditions influencing health—especially for those historically under-resourced. Our new vision also led us to adopt Trust-Based Philanthropy, recognizing that true long-term impact requires trust-based relationships with our partners.

This new lens shifts our focus from funding programs to strengthening the capacity and resiliency of the non-profit sector; engaging, supporting, and growing our local community assets; and improving local decision-making. As we look to the future, we’re dedicated to deepening our relationships with, and support of, our community’s non-profit network and serving as a true partner in helping our neighbors thrive.