Tacoma, WA

253 Making Connections Initiative

253 Making Connections Initiative

The 253 Making Connections Initiative (253MCI)  is a collaboration between the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department and several grassroots organizations that focus on improving mental health and wellbeing and strengthening resilience among men and boys and LGBTQ people of color. They do this by providing activities that promote healing, grow social connectedness, and build skills and relationships. The activities range from cultivating food in urban gardens to participating in a tribal canoe journey, and most of them link to deep cultural traditions.

Photo Credit: Hilltop Urban Gardens & Canoe Journey Herbalists



How They're Solving the Problem

How They're Solving the Problem

Adverse childhood experiences are widespread in some parts of Tacoma-Pierce County and range from unresolved trauma and depression to chronic unemployment and poverty.  To address this, the 253 Making Connections Initiative developed a participatory budgeting process through which community members—who know best what types of support their community needs—have decided to fund grassroots organizations which lead the activities described below:

  • The Tacoma Urban League offers mentoring through its Male Improvement Program.
  • Consultants for Indian Progress offer an All My Relations program for indigenous youth and another innovative program called Paddles Up, Families Strong that ties urban natives to deep cultural practices such as the Tribal Canoe Journey.
  • Canoe Journey Herbalists lead the First Foods and Medicines project that provides the community with natural herbs and healing balms and tonics.
  • Centro Latino provides space for grassroots community organizations to gather, plan, and organize.
  • API Chaya is working to prevent domestic violence and is helping to address trauma through skill-building and relationship-building.
  • La Resistencia (Latino Advocacy, LLC) visits, communicates with and advocates for immigrants who are detained at the Northwest Detention Center.

Photo Credit: Tacoma Urban League



253 MCI has strengthened social connections, increased access to and utilization of quality resources, and enhanced community resilience among men and boys and LGBTQ people of color in the Parkland, Hilltop, and East Side communities of Tacoma-Pierce County, Washington. The initiative has served 439 men and boys and LGBTQ people of color with culturally grounded activities such as the Male Involvement Program and the All My Relations Program. It has also led to the county health department creating a Father Support Worker position that is focused on supporting fathers and their kids. Additionally, the grassroots organizations contribute to the health department’s budget process to ensure that funded projects prioritize the strengths and needs of their community.

Photo Credit: La Resistencia


Participating Organizations

Tacoma Pierce County Health Department

Tacoma Urban League

Centro Latino

Consultants for Indian Progress

Hilltop Urban Gardens

Black Mycelium, LLC

Latino Advocacy, LLC

Northwest Detention Center Resistance

API Chaya

Canoe Journey Herbalists


Check out these related podcasts

Engaging Youth Leaders 

Exploring Healthy Masculinities Part 2