Building Healthy Communities

Grantee Name

Missio Church

Funding Area

Building Healthy Communities

Publication Date

June 2021

Grant Amount

$159,020

Grant Date:

July 2017- June 2020

The Near Westside of Syracuse—an NYSHealth Healthy Neighborhoods Fund community—is one of the poorest neighborhoods in Syracuse; nearly 70% of children live in poverty.

Residents have expressed a need for more organized sports and mentorship opportunities for local youth. However, many sports and after-school activities offered are fee-based and unaffordable for parents. To encourage Near Westside youth to be more physically active and engaged in their community, Missio Church developed formal programming at the neighborhood’s only park, Skiddy Park, to provide year-round programming, free of charge, to at least 30% of the young children living in the neighborhood. In 2017, NYSHealth awarded Missio Church a grant in support of these efforts.

Outcomes and Lessons Learned

  • Collaborated with community partners and residents to increase the number of children participating in the physical activity programs, including sports and arts activities at Skiddy Park, a softball league, and the after-school Westside Kids’ Club.
  • Hired older teen volunteers to act as counselors-in-training to encourage consistent and positive interaction with community residents, improve peer relationships, and foster a sense of pride in the neighborhood.
  • Exceeded its goal of reaching at least 30% of children in the Near Westside, resulting in the following:
    • Participation in the Summer at Skiddy outdoor program increased 100%;
    • Participation in the youth softball league increased 100%; and
    • Participation in Missio’s after-school program increased 38%.

Though the COVID-19 pandemic was an unexpected challenge, Missio effectively pivoted its programming and responded to the community’s needs. During the lockdown beginning in March 2020, Missio redirected funds for its afterschool programming to provide more than 200 activity boxes to children in the neighborhood with items that would encourage them to be healthy and active while sheltering in place (e.g., jump ropes, bubbles, sidewalk chalk, hula hoops, and healthy snacks).

Missio also made significant progress in engaging with city partners over the course of the grant. For example, the Syracuse Housing Authority (SHA) is now the fiscal sponsor of the softball league, and Missio is working to establish a volunteer soccer league with SHA. The principal of the elementary school next to Skiddy Park has joined Missio’s community team to help plan events at the park and engage families to participate. Missio also successfully recruited the Deputy Commissioner of the Syracuse Department of Parks, Recreation & Youth Programs to become one of the coaches of its softball teams.

Co-funding and Additional Funds Leveraged: N/A