Texans award $400,000 to Inspire Change grant recipients

The Texans and their partners surprised 15 local nonprofit organizations and educational programs with $400,000 through an Inspire Change grant fund during a breakfast Tuesday morning at NRG Stadium.

The grants were given out by Texans foundation vice president Hannah McNair, players Pharaoh Brown, Connor Strachan, Lonnie Johnson Jr, Jeff Driskel and Jonathan Owens and former players Wade Smith, Cecil Shorts, Robaire Smith and N.D. Kalu in an event that included team president Greg Grissom.

Partnering with ConocoPhillips, Coca-Cola Southwest Beverages and Miller Lite, the Texans provided a boost to existing programs, seed projects and creating partnerships through an Inspire Change Grant Fund established in September to support social justice and racial equity efforts. This is the inaugural year of the fund, and 114 unique grant applications were submitted to an advisory committee made up of McNair, Smith, a retired Pro Bowl Texans offensive lineman, and community leaders who reviewed the applications and selected the 15 organizations that received the funds.

"I think being on the ground, and going and talking to organizations and seeing where you're making an impact and making sure that impact is being felt throughout the community, that's very important for us," McNair said after the presentation of the grants. "Being boots on the ground and talking to individual organizations, making an impact. It was fun. They did not know why they were coming here. They thought it was to learn more about our giving program in 2022 so they can apply. And then they all found out they were all recipients to our Inspire Change Grant Fund."

The grant recipients represent a wide range of social justice initiatives, including health advocacy, incarceration and criminal justice reform, homelessness, youth development, education and mental health. Groups had the opportunity to apply for grants ranging from $10,000 to $50,000. The 2021 Inspire Change Grant recipients include:

1. $50,000 awarded to SHAPE Community Center, a community center which has a goal of improving the quality of life for people of African descent. The funds will be used to enhance youth programs and youth leadership training in after school and all-day programs. Funds will also help provide for the summer "Freedom Tour," a week-long bus tour through the South, visiting sites that are central to the Civil Rights Movement.

2. $35,000 awarded to CY-Hope, an organization whose goal is to provide opportunities that help vulnerable children succeed in life and bring hope to underserved children. The funds will be used to provide counseling services and speech therapy at no cost to children, individuals and families.

3. $30,000 awarded to Emancipation Park Conservancy, which works to preserve its integrity and enrich its heritage as a local, state, national and international landmark. The funds will be used to cover program expenses for a digital series which will be integrated into the Black History Month programming of elementary schools in Houston’s Greater Third Ward and Sunnyside communities.

4. $30,000 awarded to Freedmen’s Town Conservancy, which works to preserve the historic legacy of Freedmen’s Town, Houston’s first Heritage District. The funds will be used for regular and recurring tours for families with K-12 students through the historic brick streets and to share that the street that they walk on was the “Harlem of the South” less than a century ago.

5. $30,000 awarded to The Chauncy Glover Project, which helps Black and Latino males who have potential, but lack the guidance and support to achieve success after high school graduation through mentoring that is culturally and gender specific. The funds will be used to help pay for staff education and training, professional services such as tutoring and test prep, workshop facilitators, field trips, program activities and mentoring conferences.

6. $25,000 awarded to the Ben Cheri Educational Foundation, a woman-minority-led organization in the heart of Acres Homes which supports youth and families by providing tutoring, mentoring, financial literacy, entrepreneurship, after-school programming, and other educational services to youth and families of color in low-income communities. The funds will be used to add additional staff and tutoring services, purchase educational supplies and more.

7. $25,000 awarded to Books Between Kids, which provides economically disadvantaged children with books free of charge. The funds will be used to support operations with the goal of getting books into the hands and homes of children in Houston.

8. $25,000 awarded to Candlelighters Childhood Cancer Family Alliance, which was founded by families of children with cancer to help fellow families through childhood cancer, regardless of background, heritage, race, financial status. The funds will be used to provide practical support to families of children, including hospital parking expenses, in-hospital meal passes, groceries and toiletries for families of inpatient children, gas cards, seasonal family entertainment events and, when necessary, funeral assistance for families whose children have lost their battle.

9. $25,000 awarded to Cherish Our Children, Inc., which targets middle-school children of incarcerated parents to intervene and help break the unintended cycle of intergenerational incarceration through its GEMS program. The funds will be used to expand the program’s reach.

10. $25,000 awarded to Communities in Schools Houston, which focuses on low income and underserved students with the goal of surrounding students with a community of support. The funds will support CIS’ Mental Health Initiative to provide counseling services in-person on the school campus and via secure remote conferencing.

11. $25,000 awarded to Girls Inc. of Greater Houston, which builds safe spaces and fosters long-term mentoring relationships for girls to develop their strengths, learn lasting skills and take charge of their futures through direct service. The funds will help underwrite, grow and sustain the BOLD LeadHER Initiative (BLI) Program. The program serves girls ages 13-18 with research-based curriculum addressing learning and social emotional support, workshops for writing, STEM and financial literacy, civic service projects and community engagement, and academic activities such as SAT/ACT prep and tutoring.

12. $25,000 awarded to Justice Forward, an organization whose mission is to break the cycle of incarceration and fund essential programs for individuals in Harris County Specialty Courts to help them become independent and productive members of the community. The funds will help provide counseling and one-on-one mental health support, transitional housing, tuition assistance and scholarships for basic education, and workforce training for clients and special graduates of specialty court.

13. $20,000 awarded to Career Gear Houston, a nonprofit that works with those who were previously incarcerated and their families, youth from single parent homes, teenage fathers, families that are impacted by generational poverty and those who have been targeted by the criminal justice system. The funds will be used to support Well Suited Youth Career Readiness services targeting youth of incarcerated parents to provide mentorship and help students learn about professionalism.

14. $20,000 awarded to The Birthday Joy Program, which provides a means to celebrate children in our community whose families are experiencing hardship through loss of job, incarceration, poverty, illness, natural disaster, etc. The goal of the program is to help turn the feelings of stress and anxiety around a child’s birthday to that of hope and happiness. The funds will be used to purchase books, toys, party supplies such as paper goods, food, treats, and entertainment rentals as well as scholarships for extracurricular activities for low-income families.

15. $10,000 awarded to The Lawson Academy, thefirst single-gender public school in Texas which is committed to providing academic and social development to young people to help them learn to become strong adults.The funds will be used for entrepreneurship classes. 

The NFL introduced the Inspire Change initiative in 2019 to create a positive impact in local communities and support programs that reduce barriers to opportunity. During the inaugural year of the program, the Houston Texans Social Justice Fund awarded $100,000 in grants to three nonprofits in the greater Houston area which support youth and provide legal services for underprivileged citizens: the YMCA of Greater Houston, 8 Million Stories and Restoring Justice. The grant program was renewed in 2020 and the Texans awarded an additional $100,000. Texas Civil Rights Project also received funds in 2020 to aid its efforts.

“It’s an honor to award these incredible nonprofits and programs in such a meaningful way,” McNair said. “The organizations’ unwavering commitment to Houston’s youth and their families is unmatched, and we’re proud to help them continue to make a positive impact on the next generation. We know that it takes all of us to inspire change and we are looking forward to seeing their continued work to reduce barriers for so many in our community.”

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