Healthy Homes Block by Block Founder and CEO talks community empowerment

Healthy Homes Block by Block Price Hill Cincinnati Ohio

Chellie McLellan says her organization’s mission is “to empower families to realize the dreams they have for themselves and for their children” and its vision is “for Price Hill to be the best place to start and raise a family.” 

McLellan is the Founder and CEO of Healthy Homes Block by Block, a 501(c)(3) organization that has been working in the Price Hill neighborhood since 2013 and a new partner agency with HCAN in 2019.

Long-term commitment, three methods

“There is no quick fix. It takes time to help mothers break patterns they experienced in their lifetimes so they can show up in a different way for their children and families. It’s a long-term commitment, and we have gone deep and wide with families over the years,” she says. 

Healthy Homes Block by Block does that using three primary methods:

1) Building a relational network. Healthy Homes’ Block Captains, who are moms from the neighborhood, walk through their community and engage pregnant women and mothers with children under five years old. “They help connect families who feel isolated to resources and supports,” McLellan says.

infant mortality race disparity

Beyond that, the Block Captains offer support in a variety of ways, including providing pack-and-plays for safe infant sleeping areas and discussing the ABCs of safe sleep (Alone, Back, Crib); installing safety features, such as baby gates, smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, and window guards; and helping parents sign up for the Dolly Parton Imagination Library, which provides a monthly free children’s book.

“The Block Captains also use a wheel-of-life assessment tool to find the places where these families are struggling and connect mothers to resources that can help—whether that’s work force development, GED, legal aid, early parenting skills, or any number of other programs,” she says.

2) Providing employment pathways for moms. The Block Captains come from the Price Hill neighborhood and have experienced many of the same issues faced by those the organization serves. “Often they have worked the systems they’ll help clients navigate, so they have real-life experience, strength, and hope to offer.” 

Currently, there are three block captains, all of whom have gone through certification courses through HCAN to become Community Health Workers.

“We pay $15 per hour (at a minimum), and the Block Captains work part-time. They gain employment and career pathway credentialing,” she says. “Providing meaningful, purposeful work opportunities with a decent wage means the Block Captains can be parents and buildcommunity assets. It changes the outcome for everyone they touch. They become change agents in the community.”

3) Building a prevention coalition. “Our Price Hill Prevention Coalition works to avoid or delay the first use of alcohol, tobacco, or marijuana by young people,” McLellan says.

“We are building a Youth Prevention Coalition [a subset of the Price Hill Prevention Coalition]; we provide prevention training and education, and we have free resources.” For example, they provide DeTerra bags for safe drug disposal and lock boxes to keep medications out of children’s reach.

HCAN and Healthy Homes Block by Block

McLellan appreciates how closely HCAN worked with her organization to find a way for its Block Captains to take the certification course. “HCAN agreed to offer the course at night. They found space in their building for us to use to offer childcare during that time. They provided scholarships. I will be forever grateful that they allowed us to set it up so all of our Captains could be successful and finish the course.” And now, one of the Captains is now joining the HCAN hub, working with pregnant women. 

“HCAN helps us in a number of ways: preparing our Captains to become Community Health Workers, helping navigate Medicaid and insurance, referring moms to us,” she says. 

Empowering everyone they touch

“[Healthy Homes Block by Block] work[s] as part of an ecosystem of support and services to wrap our arms around these families and do what we can to help them navigate daunting barriers,” she says. “Our goal is to lift up the residents who live in Price Hill, to have them become the experts.”

One particularly inspiring story involves the Block Captains: 75% have now been through the Homesteading Program and have either purchased or are in the process of purchasing a home. “One paid for her home outright,” McLellan says. “Now they’re even more invested in the Price Hill neighborhood, and they’re building equity.”

The parts of the work that excite McLellan the most are “watching the team flourish and having the opportunity, [her]self, to work directly with families through their Parenting for Prevention courses.” She describes their work as “weaving a tapestry of support”: The families they work with see the Block Captains “in the grocery store, at school, in church; it lets the families know they’re not alone.” 

*Source: Craddle Cincinnati

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