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MAY 17, 2023

Fresh Start receives $1.3 million grant from JPMorgan Chase to help women of color with mental health


PHOENIX, AZ (May 17, 2023) – Fresh Start Women’s Foundation announced Wednesday that it is offering expanded services throughout the Valley for women of color through a $1.3 million, three-year grant from JPMorgan Chase. 

The Phoenix-based nonprofit provides resources to help women over come adversity and achieve self-sufficiency. As part of its Impact Program, it is expanding its resources to address the disparity in mental health care among women of color. 

“Coming out of the pandemic we could tell as an organization that women in general, and specifically women of color, were disproportionately impacted,” Fresh Start CEO Kim McWaters said. “Just recognizing the size of our city and the great need for women in our community, we started looking at ways in which we could help them more.”

The organization launched a new science-backed and evidence-based model that focuses on five pillars that it has established as requirements in order for their clients to be self-sufficient and strong: family stability, consisting of a place to live, food and safety; mental health and wellness; financial literacy and management; education; and career.

On May 17, Fresh Start held a free event focusing on resource access, mental health and financial well-being for women of color. Guest speaker Ashley Taylor-Barber, a marriage and family therapist, discussed topics related to mental health and well-being in marginalized communities.

“Studies show women of color suffer disproportionately from the kinds of adverse life experiences that can lead to depression, anxiety disorders and toxic levels of chronic stress,” Taylor-Barber said in a statement. “It is important to offer culturally competent resources, so women of color have a wider pathway to healing, well-being and success.”

Former Fresh Start client Sylvia White, who is now a personal advisor at JPMorgan Chase, knows this all too well — having been a single mother of three, who escaped an abusive marriage. Through a domestic violence counselor, White discovered Fresh Start in2014 and participated in their offerings for three years. She described the programs as helping her start a new version of her life — beneficial to her in many ways, from gaining mental stability to finding employment.

“While going through the programs, I got myself well and mentally stable again,” White said. “The other part was getting physically able and ready to get back into the workforce.”

Funding the future of women of color

Fresh Start’s grant is from JPMorgan Chase’s Advancing Cities Challenge that started in 2018. It is part of a $500 million, five-year initiative to help drive equitable economic growth across the globe and a $30-billion commitment to help close the racial wealth gap in underserved Black, Hispanic and Latino communities in the United States.

Fresh Start was one of eight organizations selected for a grant and picked from more than 200 companies around the world. The funds will go towards expanding resources to support BIPOC women throughout the Valley.

“The investment will allow Fresh Start to escalate and expand access to its Impact Program,” Kathy Hu, managing director for JPMorgan Private Bank, said in a statement. “They will be further integrating mental health support into programming, and increasing the number of trained mental health providers who are representative of women of color in Arizona.”

Taylor-Barber believes this will be particularly invaluable to women of color who have experienced trauma surrounding racially motivated events, and are in what she describes as a sustained fight, flight, freeze or fawn threat response.

“Your body is not meant to stay there. It’s going to cause some discord in your body, it’s going to cause some mental health issues, it’s going to cause what we call cognitive dissonance,” Taylor-Barber said.

With issues such as these and other stressors that plague women of color, McWaters said the beauty of this grant is it allows Fresh Start to explore what works best for the women they serve and help them achieve holistic well-being. 

“Access to mental health and wellness is so important, so that they can manage all of these things in life and get the help that they need, so that they can benefit from the other pillars that we offer on offer on education and careers — to get to a better place,” McWaters said.

Story by:
Mignon A. Gould
Associate Editor – Phoenix Business Journal 

Originally published in the Phoenix Business Journal