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All children and youth deserve access to high quality, community-based mental health services. While this has always been true, the physical isolation, ongoing uncertainly, fear and grief as a result from the dual pandemics of COVID-19 and systemic inequities impacting communities of color have made these services more vital than ever before.

Throughout 2022, members of the Catalyst Endowment Fund giving circle at the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving have been learning about youth mental health, the greatest challenges facing families and providers as well as resources available to families who seek to help. On October 25, members of the giving circle attended a virtual meeting and awarded $73,000 to two nonprofit organizations that are working to improve access to mental health services for children and youth in need.

“We have seen a return to a new normal. Members of the Catalyst Endowment Fund heard from advocates and families about the significant mental health challenges with which our children, youth, and their families continue to struggle,” said Catalyst Steering Committee chair Terry Schmitt. “We are grateful for the opportunity to make grants to two organizations that are focused on providing youth in our community with greater access to mental health supports.”

After releasing a Request for Proposals in August and reviewing 23 applications from local nonprofits, Catalyst members recommended grants to support the following projects:

Our Piece of the Pie (OPP) works with youth (14-24) facing a wide array of obstacles. Some are at risk of dropping out of school, while others already have. Many currently are or have been involved in the juvenile justice or foster care systems; some are under-employed; and some are both out of school and out of work. OPP has received a Catalyst grant of $70,000 to support the implementation of a pilot project to bring in-house clinical supports to the youth they serve. Catalyst funding will support the planning and implementation of in-house clinical supports for OPP youth including hiring and training of staff, development of internal processes and protocols, communications and marketing, and providing direct services to youth.

“The Catalyst Fund Endowment at the Hartford Foundation is exactly that— catalytic,” said OPP President and CEO Hector Rivera. “Our Piece of the Pie®, Inc. identified a critical need for in-house clinical services that are culturally competent and easy to access for our youth and Catalyst’s support is providing the seed funding for this to initiative to grow. Having access to this resource with a quick turnaround is essential to being able to take action without long delays. We appreciate this opportunity to bring these important services to our youth.”

My Sisters’ Place (MSP) provides permanent supportive housing at its Mary Seymour and Sue Ann Shay Place Apartments in Hartford’s North End as well as various other sites in Hartford. Children and youth residents can currently access MSP’s For the Love of Children Initiative (FLOCI), which provides educational and enriching afterschool and summer programming as along with individualized assistance and case management to help children succeed in school. As part of FLOCI, the organization has piloted a new program, Voices for Homeless Girls, which is based on the principles of gender responsivity. The program advocates a strength-based approach and uses a variety of therapeutic techniques including psychoeducation, mindfulness and expressive arts. The goal of Voices is to increase participants’ mental health resiliency and ability to successfully adapt to their experiences of homelessness. The Catalyst grant of $3,000 will support transportation for participants to get to and from the program site.

The Catalyst Endowment Fund provides opportunities to learn about the critical issues facing our region, meet new people who share your commitment to community, and determine grants to help tackle those issues. Since 1993, when a small group of volunteers came together to create the fund, this Giving Circle has worked together to make a positive impact in Greater Hartford. The fund’s endowment is now more than $2 million, and the fund has awarded more than $1 million to dozens of nonprofits. For more information, contact Betty Ann Grady at or visit

The Hartford Foundation for Public Giving is the community foundation for Hartford and 28 surrounding towns. Through partnerships, the Foundation seeks to strengthen communities in Greater Hartford by putting philanthropy in action to dismantle structural racism and achieve equity in social and economic mobility. Made possible by the gifts of generous individuals, families and organizations, the Foundation has awarded grants of more than $8 million since its founding in 1925. For more information, visit or call 860-548-1888.