Established in 2021, the Lauren Brown award funds expenses that are beyond what traditional scholarships give help with, such as transportation to school or help to overcome other barriers..
ERS President & CEO Laura Lamb recently had two significant announcements about the Lauren Brown Empowerment Award: A first-ever recipient has been chosen, and also, more than $130,000 has been pledged toward the goal of raising a $500,000 Lauren Brown Endowment Fund, which will finance the award for many years.
Lauren Brown was a lifelong learner and single Black mother who joined ERS while in high school, working in dining services at Marjorie P. Lee. She later worked in life enrichment and administration at ERS and aspired to become an Affordable Living manager. She aspired to go through a rigorous process to become a licensed nursing home administrator, but the beloved team member died unexpectedly in April 2021 at age 33.
Providing a hand-up to BIPOC team members
The creation of the award was an offshoot of the ERS We Can Do Better initiative, which aims to improve the lives of people of color.
The first awardee is “Charlene,” a pseudonym to protect her privacy because the program was created to help Black, Indigenous, and Persons of Color (BIPOC) team members overcome barriers – financial and otherwise – that make it more difficult for people of color to advance their careers.
Charlene is an African-American woman who has worked for ERS for some time and is a full-time resident working toward her nursing degree. She is a recipient of tuition assistance from ERS. But the Lauren Brown award funds needs that are beyond what traditional scholarships give help with, such as transportation to school or help to overcome other barriers.
“She also has had some challenges that have made continuing in school very, very difficult,” Lamb said about Charlene. During COVID, she had a number of family emergencies, some of them health-related, plus the loss of someone in her life, which also caused hardships.
“She had to make a big decision about paying some bills or continuing school,” Lamb said. “That is exactly the type of person that we hope to continue to help.”
Ways the award can help
The award helped her pay bills and with reliable transportation so she could get to school, Lamb said.
“If it weren’t for the Lauren Brown Empowerment Fund, she would have a lapse in her schooling,” Laura added, noting it often is difficult to resume schooling after such a gap.
She explained during ERS' August all-employee online meeting that it’s important not to reveal the identities of recipients, so other staff members aren’t discouraged from applying in the future.
“We don’t want that to be a barrier to applying, that folks might say, ‘Oh, gosh, I don’t want people to know that I’m struggling in this regard, or I need this extra assistance,” Lamb said.
Deadline for the next award
Monday, October 17, 2022, is the deadline to seek help through the Lauren Brown award and also for the ERS Tuition Assistance Program to receive 2023 funding.
For more information and to apply, team members should contact Alexis Ryles, the ERS Director of Talent Development. ERS will hold two information sessions in September to provide more information about each program.
Lamb explained the reason for creating the Lauren Brown Endowment Fund is so it can be “a forever program,” through which only interest or income is spent, not the principal, so “we will be able to continue this program for generations to come.”
Already, more than $130,000 has been committed by private donors, including ERS staff members. In addition, another person has pledged about $128,000 to the fund whenever they pass away. That amount cannot be counted toward the $500,000 goal, “but we can sure get excited that somebody was so passionate that they wanted to earmark about $128,000 toward our Lauren Brown Empowerment Fund,” Lamb said.
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