Grants administrator Alicia Araujo finds inspiration, home at Health Forward


I was born and raised in Queens, NY. I moved to Missouri in 2004. You can imagine that the differences between urban New York and the suburbs of Missouri are extreme and overwhelming. Because of this, I kept to my small bubble. It took me nearly 11 years to realize how great Kansas City is.

Kansas City is filled with great food, history, hidden gems, and a strong nonprofit presence that I would not discover until I started working at Health Forward.

I started in 2015 when we were still located at our old offices on 18th and Prospect. As many of our grantees know, that area is vastly different from the suburbs of KC where I live. My colleagues fully embraced me and set out to open the doors to Kansas City. You’ll know this to be true: their passion for the work we do and love for the city is contagious.

The easiest way to begin learning about a city is of course through food. My colleagues showed me some of the best places for lunch from the taco truck on 18th Street to the best chicken soup — a tip from Adriana Pecina when I was sick. She was right, I felt better after the first bite.

Shortly after my hiring, we moved to our interim location on Main Street. The new location was a necessity because our old office had been purchased, but the move came with its upsides. The locked doors between offices were gone and we could freely mingle in the halls. It also opened up new areas of the city within walking distance and streetcar access. The larger space also accommodated many new colleagues who all brought their own restaurant recommendations (Jason Williams knows where to get the best sandwiches).

What I love most is that these lunches have helped me to form meaningful connections to my colleagues. We would sit around at the breakroom table and discuss current events, Netflix shows, sports (hello, fellow Yankees fans!), and life. I miss these moments, and I cannot wait until we are all together again after the pandemic subsides.

Over the last five years, I have fallen in love with the city and the grantees that do amazing work in our community. As I explore the city, I recognize hundreds of grantee locations tucked around the metro. It’s a humbling but gratifying feeling to know that I play a small part in supporting these partnerships.

Through my role at Health Forward, I connect with applicants during the application process and provide support to grantees when they have questions about reporting due dates, their application status, and so much more.

While I have a behind-the-scenes role with the foundation, I get a front-row seat to the hard work that organizations put in to make their projects a success. I am so inspired to support the progression of an organization through the application stage, to the award stage, and then finally the reporting stage. It’s truly rewarding to witness the growth in confidence and pride of the organization as it moves through phases of success.

Health Forward’s Food Insecurity Bus Tour is one of my fondest memories because it took me out from behind the desk into the community. Witnessing the work in person, rather than through email and phone conversations was an entirely new experience.

I thank my colleagues and the many grantees who have helped me learn about what Kansas City has to offer. Health Forward has helped me get to know the area and I finally feel like I have found a home, not only with Health Forward but in Kansas City as well.