February 2020 MNCHWA Community Health Worker Spotlight: Vonyee Howard

Vonyee Howard, MNCHWA Board Member
Care Coordinator at People Incorporated
Family Life Mental Health Clinic
MN CHW Certificate Holder

What do you do as a CHW?

I’m the Care Coordinator at People Incorporated – Family Life Mental Health Clinic.  I work alongside a team of mental health practitioners & clinicians and provide advocacy on behalf of consumers to communicate their needs within the organization, as well as to outside organizations.  A large part of my role is assisting consumers with connections to various community resources, including health insurance.  I also initiate referrals for MNCHOICES assessments, case management services, vocational training, support services, and other mental health programs.

What has been your favorite part of being a CHW?

My favorite part of being a CHW has always been helping people connect to the resources and services they need.  I also love when I can squeeze a smile or a laugh out of someone, just by being myself.  I realize the people I serve are dealing with some very tough times; some might even be experiencing feelings of depression and hopelessness.  To say or do something that makes someone laugh or smile during tough times warms my entire spirit.

What’s something most people don’t know about you?

Most people don’t know that I’m inspired and motivated by the people I serve and by the need I see for service in our communities.

Success Story

I recently connected a consumer to a resource for a holiday food basket. She called me to personally tell me about her experience picking up the holiday food basket: “Ms. Vonyee, I want to thank you for putting me in contact with [the agency]. They had a holiday party. I met some nice people and had a wonderful time! The people there were so nice!  I wasn’t expecting anything except to pick up food, and I received so much more! Thank you SO much!”
I, of course, knew ahead of time that a holiday party was included but I didn’t think it was an important detail to mention when I provided her with this resource.  The smile and excitement in her voice over the phone was infectious; I was so happy that attending the party was a pleasant surprise for her– especially during the holiday season.

January 2020 MNCHWA Community Health Worker Spotlight: Kimberli Barker

Kimberli Barker, CHW Certificate Holder
Dakota County Public Health

What do you do as a CHW?

I work for Dakota County Public Health, supporting a variety of programs. When I’m wearing my Child & Teen Checkups (C&TC) hat, I do different kinds of outreach including C&TC introduction calls to families who are newly enrolled in Medical Assistance, Car Seat education and distribution, and other forms of Community Outreach. Community Outreach includes things like Health and/or Resource Fairs, Summer Safety Camps, and Information Tables at Food Shelves and other Community Events. Most recently we have been developing an Oral Health presentation for ECFE classes and in-home child care centers.

When I wear my Family Home Visiting (FHV) hat, I work alongside our Public Health Nurses with families of young children who need a little extra parenting support. While the nurse typically visits once or twice a month, I can visit every week. We work through a goal-setting process that allows the family to select the topics that they are interested in learning more about. Then we use a variety of curricula to determine their strengths and how they can use their own strengths and resources to address their areas of need.

What has been your favorite part of being a CHW?

I enjoy working with families and watching as they discover their strengths. I especially enjoy watching when children flourish and grow in their relationships with their parents and other care givers. I guess my “favorite” part is when a family returns weeks, months or even years later to say “thank you” and lets me know how my visits have shaped their futures.

What’s something most people don’t know about you?

I love learning about cultures. I believe that every person is a part of a large culture as well as sub-cultures and I like to learn about how they mesh together to create that person’s personality and life experiences. I especially love trying and experimenting with the foods that are important to people I care about.

Success Story

Several years ago I visited with an immigrant family who had two teenage children and a newborn. My visits were typically with Mom and Baby while the other children were in school. Dad was occasionally there, but he also worked varying hours. Mom felt isolated and confused about life in a new country. She shared both her struggles with her family’s discontent over her coming to the U.S. and her joy at watching her children adapt to their new life.

During our visits, she would hint at verbal and emotional abuse by her husband, the father of her children. When he was not present we were able to address the different ways that domestic violence is viewed in her home country as well as here in the U.S. At one point we visited a shelter and she considered joining a support group but didn’t follow through as she did not have a driver’s license or car at that time.

My visits ended after about 2 years and I would occasionally see her when she came into the office for her WIC benefits. Fast forward six years … this past summer, I was called to the lobby, only to find this mom asking for me. Her older children are now out of the home and thriving on their own. Her youngest is doing well in school but is concerned about his mother’s safety. Dad has become more and more vocal and has begun to threaten her with physical violence so Mom is asking me about the shelter that we visited years ago.

I was able to help her call them and set up an appointment. Because she now drives her own car, I was able to meet her at the appointment and get her set up with the ongoing supports she will be receiving from them. As we parted from that appointment she said: “I didn’t even know if you still worked in Public Health, but I knew that if you did, you would be able to help me find the help I need now.”

January Executive Director Message

Hello everyone, 

I’d like to start my first column of 2020 by thanking all of the Alliance’s partners, allies, stakeholders and funders as well as the Minnesota community health workers (MN CHWs) who supported our mission of building community and systems capacity for better health through the integration of CHW strategies in 2019. We honored the CHW motto, “Nothing About Us Without Us.” 

As I reflect over the past year, I am wowed by the growth of the Alliance. I am also very proud of our successful ventures and hard work.  Let me share a few of the Alliance’s many great accomplishments and activities in 2019: 
Minnesota Highlights

  • Moved the Alliance headquarters to new office space in Bloomington  
  • Provided our third leadership development institute training to 43 CHWs. We will offer the training to 60 CHWs from across the state beginning in Spring 2020—please see the article in this issue for more info and note that applications are due Feb 7, 2020
  • Launched our monthly CHW Spotlight and highlighted six MN CHWs working in various areas of health care
  • Organized and hosted a successful 2019 annual statewide conference and our second annual fundraiser breakfast 
  • Participated for the first time in MN Give to the Max Day 
  • Formed the Minnesota CHW Common Indicators Project as a subcommittee of our CHW Supervisors’ Roundtable and a regional affiliate of the national project
  • Began to explore CHW registry development under the leadership of the Alliance’s Research and Policy Committee
  • Welcomed new board members, tripling our number of CHWs on the board to six 
  • Engaged CHWs as lead group facilitators

National Activities

  • Attended the 2019 National Association of CHWs Conference in Las Vegas 
  • Presented a research poster on our CHW Leadership Development Institute at the 2019 APHA Annual Conference in Philadelphia
  • Represented our state as a 2019 National CHW Ambassador

As you can see, we had a very exciting and productive year. Looking ahead, we will continue to focus on our key strategic areas. I look forward to bringing new statewide partners and allies to this important work. Plus, I want to build on and expand program offerings related to Education and Training, Field Building, Partnerships and Outreach, and Public Policy.  By advancing CHW strategies and opportunities, we will help close gaps and promote health equity in our state. 

In closing, I’d like to thank all of our past, present and future partners and send my very best wishes your way as we begin 2020. Happy New Year from the MN Community Health Worker Alliance!

Kind regards,


LaTanya Black
Executive Director
Minnesota Community Health Worker Alliance