Despite an initial disbelief that revival could come to poverty-stricken Coatesville, community members are fast becoming believers in the Brandywine Health Foundation’s master plan to make a big difference in the health, life and future of the Chester County city.
To some residents and leaders, the 2008 opening of a $13 million four-story building for health, dental and behavioral services, along with affordable senior housing, was a pipe dream.
Now it’s an inspiration for a generation of dreamers.
“(Our partner) organizations needed a permanent home, but we didn’t want to build a little one-story,” President and CEO Frances Sheehan said in a feature for the Build Healthy Places Network. “We wanted to have an actual economic impact on the community.”
But in order to do that, BHF needed to win the hearts of its neighbors.
“You can’t assume that because you’re the expert and exposed to newfangled ways, that the community is going to embrace these things,” Sheehan said. “Outside funders and think tanks can come into a community, but you really need local community leaders.”
And BHF has learned that in order to revitalize Coatesville, much more was needed than a first-in-the-nation federally qualified health center.
“‘When you listen to people’s stories and look at what people’s lives are like and what the data point to, it’s very clear’ that the solution includes more than basic health care,” Sheehan said in the article. “‘Health insurance and access to health care is at the core of everything we do, but we don’t believe we can solely focus on that.’”
That’s where housing came in, and BHF has since embraced a youth initiative and now a focus on city parks and playgrounds.