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Steel Smiling receives $250,000+ in grant support to expand programming, impact in Black community



Recent funds include $200,000 from the Richard King Mellon Foundation, $37,328 from the Laura and Jason Rock Family Foundation and $15,000 from the Jewish Healthcare Foundation


PITTSBURGH (November 2020) -- Steel Smiling is the recent recipient of more than $250,000 in grants from some of the region’s leading philanthropic foundations to support its ongoing mission to bridge the gap between Black people and mental health support through education, advocacy and awareness.

The funding comes as Steel Smiling expands its signature Beams to Bridges mental health workforce development program into four new neighborhoods and plans in November to launch Steel Thriving, a mental health education and advocacy program for Black, high school-aged young people.

The recent foundation support includes:

• $200,000 from the Richard King Mellon Foundation to support programs and operations to increase access to community-based mental health services, including expanding the Beams to Bridges program

• $37,328 from the Laura and Jason Rock Family Foundation for hiring full-time staff members

• $15,000 from the Jewish Healthcare Foundation for the Steel Thriving youth program

“Supporting mental health initiatives at the individual and community level has been an important component of the Foundation’s strategy,” said Richard King Mellon Foundation Director Sam Reiman. “The data makes clear that our Black communities have been disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, and those impacts make access to mental-health services in our Black communities more important than ever. Steel Smiling has been an effective partner, and the Foundation was eager to support their timely efforts.”

Steel Smiling is humbled and honored by the support, said Julius Boatwright, its founding CEO. He’s grateful for the investments from the philanthropic community and the ongoing commitment from Steel Smiling’s fiscal sponsor partner organization Neighborhood Allies.

“The cornerstone of Neighborhood Allies’ work centers on fostering healthy neighborhoods in Pittsburgh, making Steel Smiling an obvious key partner in the delivery of that vision,” said President Presley Gillespie. “Neighborhood Allies recognizes the importance of looking beyond bricks and mortar and centering the well-being and healing of people in community development projects and discussions. We saw from the very beginning that Steel Smiling had the incredible potential to produce tangible quality of life changes for Black neighbors in our priority communities and we are so thankful for their entry into the local community development sector.”

"In the midst of multiple crises -- a public health pandemic, racial injustices and an economic depression -- supporting the mental health needs of Black people is vital and necessary. Any individual or institution that's not doing so with racially-sensitive intentionality is completely missing the mark," Boatwright said. “These strategic funding partnerships will help Steel Smiling continue to scale our regional impact as the leading organization supporting Black mental health.”

Members of the community who would like to support Steel Smiling’s mission are invited to make a donation at to the Black Mental Health Fund, which so far has raised more than $135,000 to provide free mental health services to Black people in Pennsylvania, New York, Missouri, Alabama, Illinois, Kansas, Maryland and Texas.



Launched in 2015, Steel Smiling bridges the gap between Black people and mental health support through education, advocacy and awareness. Its vision is to expose every Black person in the country to a mental health experience that positively improves their quality of life by 2050. Its community-based programming includes Beams to Bridges, Steel Thriving, Digital Mental Health and Wellness, Suicide Awareness Day, Mental Health Awareness Day and the Black Mental Health Fund Referral Program. Steel Smiling has a strategic funding and fiscal sponsor partnership with Neighborhood Allies.

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