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Syracuse residents invited to vote on projects to fight lead poisoning

Old paint is the chief source of lead poisoning in children.
Old paint is the chief source of lead poisoning in children.

Update: The partnership between Sankofa Reproductive Health and Healing Center and Village Birth International was named the winner of $150,000 grant to help increase childhood lead testing and awareness.

"The winning project involves a collaboration between Sankofa and Village Birth as well as Doula 4 a Queen, zenG Wellness and Cafe Sankofa to use community-based doula care as an avenue of engagement and peer to peer community-led wellness," The Central New York Community Foundation said in a release. "Doula-led education will be expanded to incorporate lead awareness and prevention into pre- and post-partum programming. "

View the full proposal summary here.


The Community Foundation has $150,000 to fund a project to help fight lead poisoning in Central New York. The organization is leaving it up to the community to decide the best way to spend those dollars, through a community vote that ends May 2.

Lead poisoning remains a crisis in the city of Syracuse. Cases are mostly concentrated in poorer neighborhoods, filled with older homes built before 1978 when lead paint was banned. Onondaga County, the city of Syracuse and local lead poisoning coalitions are fighting it.

The Community Foundation is taking a different approach, asking the community that lives with lead paint what its needs are. Qiana Williams, a program officer with the Community Foundation, said they’re asking the community to choose one of four projects to increase lead testing for children.

"I believe this is an effective way," Williams said. "This is the first time in Syracuse, where we have centered the people who are closest to the problem."

Williams said it offers residents who live with the issue a chance to decide what plan can get the job done.

"We wanted to use that approach to see how we can solve the problem collaboratively," Williams said. "Not with a top-down approach, right-size the power.”

Voting culminates Tuesday on four projects focused on increasing lead testing. They include one that would bridge the transportation gap, by offering rides to testing sites, and three others that would increase lead awareness and testing opportunities through either resident leaders, a paid leader, or local doulas.

Williams said these solutions help take away some of the burden of the lead crisis from families.

"They’re already dealing with the fact that they have a child who's been lead poisoning," Williams said. "They’re expected to fulfill all these obligations, but there’s no support to help them with that. That’s what a lot of the residents explained during this process."

Lead poisoning can cause brain damage, stunt a child’s growth and cause behavioral problems.

To vote on a project, click here.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.