WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — The American Heart Association of Palm Beach County is stepping up to help churches in the community.
It announced $17,500 in grants will be awarded to seven churches looking to kick start health projects for their congregations.
"We're hoping that we will be able to educate as many people as possible to have a healthy life so that they have an extended life," said Oscar Lewis, the pastor for Faith Deliverance Church of God in Riviera Beach.
The AHA is awarding $2,500 to:
- Loving Hands for the Needy in Boynton Beach
- St. John Missionary Baptist Church
- Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church and Bethany Baptist Church in West Palm Beach
- Faith Deliverance Church Of God in Riviera Beach
- Bethel Evangelical Baptist Church in Delray Beach
- Glades Faith Health Educators, which split its grant between six additional churches.
"Since we know that many of the risk factors around heart disease and stroke are significantly linked to tobacco use and hypertension, we are working with those churches to implement policies, education and build sustainable relationships to address those issues," said Brittani Coore, the community impact director with the AHA.
A survey found the churches were in areas where upwards of 33% of people are smokers and some 50% have hypertension.
"This is really going to change our community, not just for now, but for years to come," said Diane Lewis, the director of outreach ministries with Faith Deliverance Church of God.
With the grant, Faith Deliverance plans to establish a comprehensive tobacco-free site policy and monthly screenings which will connect people with classes, therapy and other resources.
"Oh my God, they're so excited. We've got so many emails and texts from our congregation saying, 'Go Faith Deliverance.' It's going to be exciting," said Lewis.
Places like Loving Hands for the Needy in Boynton Beach is also receiving a grant.
"We value people, and when you value people, you make them understand that they are valued to God and to you," John Miller, Loving Hands executive director, said.
The organization serves more than 3,000 people every month and hopes the AHA expands this initiative to more churches, with bigger grants.
"When you thinking about making life better, you invest in humans," said Miller. "That's the best investment you can do."