Three Twin Cities Social Entrepreneurs Receive Funding To Break Down Racial And Health Disparity Barriers

By Emily Swanson


The American Heart Association, the world’s leading nonprofit organization focused on heart and brain health for all, announced three Twin Cities-based businesses and nonprofits will receive $430,000 in funding from the Association’s Social Impact Fund to sustainably address health equity in the community.

The nationwide fund provides financial resources for evidence-based, community-driven entrepreneurial solutions that help remove the social and economic barriers to health equity and drive economic empowerment, healthy food access, affordable housing, access to quality healthcare, transportation, educational opportunities and reduce recidivism.

“Through the American Heart Association’s Social Impact Fund, local social entrepreneurs will be able to make a meaningful, measurable impact on the health of people in the metro area,” said Holly Messick, senior vice president of development and executive director for the American Heart Association in Minnesota.

The first round of Social Impact Fund recipients are:

  • Sakan Community Resource (Bloomington, Minn.) connects individuals with the knowledge and services they need to navigate home ownership while preserving Islamic religious principles. The grant will expand programming to help put 120 families on the path to home ownership readiness.
  • Hmong American Farmers Association (West Saint Paul, Minn.) helps its members build wealth through providing access to land, financial and farming capacity building, and new markets. The grant will help build sustainable business practices and increase income for over 100 Hmong farmers living in the region.
  • Better Futures Minnesota (Minneapolis, Minn.) helps formerly incarcerated individuals get on a path of personal and financial success through stable housing, health and wellness engagement, workforce development, and life coaching. The grant will launch a new social enterprise that will help reduce recidivism and homeless rates for over 300 men and support the financial well-being of over 2,000 family and community members.

“The quality of and access to health and health care, education, housing and safe neighborhoods has a huge impact on heart health. We are proud to be a part of the community-led solutions that the American Heart Association’s Social Impact Fund will bring,” said Gary Ellis, Minnesota philanthropist and longtime volunteer for the American Heart Association. Gary and Sue Ellis are the founding funders of the American Heart Association’s Social Impact Fund in Minnesota. “In my opinion, this is the most important thing that the American Heart Association can do right now to remove barriers to heart health. It will allow us to move quickly to implement projects that make an immediate, tangible difference. And will ultimately move the needle on health equity in the future.”

While significant advances have been made in cardiovascular disease prevention and treatment, health results are disparate across economic, racial and ethnic groups. According to the County Health Rankings, only 20% of a person’s overall health is determined by clinical medical care, while the rest is determined by social and economic factors, as well as physical environment.[1] Approximately 50 million people in the United States are at higher risk for cardiovascular disease because they lack the most basic needs — healthy food, clean air and drinking water, quality education, employment and housing.[2]

To learn more about the Social Impact Fund and future funding opportunities, visit

About the American Heart Association

The American Heart Association is a relentless force for a world of longer, healthier lives. We are dedicated to ensuring equitable health in all communities. Through collaboration with numerous organizations, and powered by millions of volunteers, we fund innovative research, advocate for the public’s health and share lifesaving resources. The Dallas-based organization has been a leading source of health information for nearly a century. Connect with us on, Facebook, Twitter or by calling 1-800-AHA-USA1.   

[1] County Health Rankings Model The County Health Rankings is a collaboration between the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute. The County Health Rankings illuminate opportunities for improvement by ranking the health of nearly every county in the nation across four Health Factors: Health Behaviors (30%), clinical care (20%), social and economic factors (40%), physical environment (10%).  

[2] United Way ALICE: The Consequences of Insufficient Income 2017 Report