Dear fellow Western North Carolinians,
There is no denying that 2021 was a year of significant challenges for Western North Carolina. It may seem that “Be Inspired” would be an unusual message in light of these difficult times. But YOU inspire us, and inspiration is exactly what Dogwood’s board and staff feel as we work with our community partners to dramatically improve the health and wellbeing of everyone in the region.
We are inspired by the caring that you show throughout every aspect of your work. We see it in community health workers who connect families to life-enhancing services, in educators who go the extra mile to keep students engaged in learning and in each of you who lend a hand – or a hammer – to ensure that your neighbors have safe and stable homes. We are inspired by those of you who persevere to keep your workers employed and continue to serve the community, even in the toughest of circumstances.
We are inspired as we witness our partners across the region coming together, time and again, to learn from one another and develop collaborative solutions and innovative approaches for equitably improving lives and increasing opportunities for Western North Carolinians.
Most of all, we are inspired by the resiliency we see throughout the region, even as the COVID-19 pandemic stretches on. That same resiliency will provide the foundation for our region’s ability to move beyond simply responding to current needs. Our resiliency will power our work to embrace a shared vision and proactively create a healthier future where everyone has stable housing, an engaging education, economic opportunity and good health.
Dogwood’s community investment strategy, which was released in the fall of 2021, reflects this spirit of shared vision and collaboration. We are inspired and honored to work with all of our partners to truly transform our region. Together, despite any challenge, we will create a Western North Carolina where every generation can live, learn, earn and thrive – no exceptions.
Janice W. Brumit
Chief Executive Officer
Dogwood Health Trust is investing to touch every county in Western North Carolina and the Qualla Boundary.
While the numbers are impressive, it’s the experience that makes for effective partnerships with community organizations. During 2021, Dogwood began to hone its grantmaking processes to provide a smoother experience for our community partners. In April we launched a new online application portal to open the door to new conversations about ideas and projects in WNC. Many of these inquiries turned into funded grants.
While COVID-19 was ever present in 2021, the arrival of vaccines allowed Dogwood to shift its pandemic-related work from response to prevention. Under the umbrella of our Health & Wellness strategic priority area, we supported a number of outreach, education and collaboration efforts focused on growing the number of vaccinated WNC residents. We also saw our impact investment in CommunityLabWNC deliver social returns as this local lab became a regional hub for COVID-19 testing.
Rutherford County United Way/Voices of Affrilachia
Dogwood partnered with Change Agent Phillip Cooper and the Rutherford County United Way to create an event called “Voices of Affrilachia,” featuring listening sessions and site visits between NC DHHS officials and Black and Indigenous people of color community leaders in WNC to create culturally sensitive mental health and SUD services in WNC. As a direct result of the “Voices of Affrilachia” project, United Way of Rutherford County and Cooper partnered on a larger, short-term project funded by NCDHHS in collaboration with Partners Behavioral Health. The program, named “Project Urgent Need,” served people with severe mental illness or co-occurring disorders. Cooper led a team of peer support specialists, providing housing assistance and follow-up peer support to 170 people in WNC and Catawba and Cleveland counties. Other team members distributed Narcan across a seven-county footprint. From their efforts, project leaders have been notified of six lives saved from overdoses
In 2020, Dogwood pledged to focus a dedicated pool of funds toward increasing equitable opportunities and outcomes for people of color and also reaffirmed the commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion that has been core to our work since inception. In 2021, our racial equity portfolio included more than $3.4 million in grants to organizations led by and/or primarily serving people of color, and grants throughout all strategic priority areas were made with an eye toward equity.
No single foundation can fuel all of the innovative ideas and organizations that are working to address needs in WNC. That’s why Dogwood’s Leverage Fund connects area organizations with proven professional grant writers who help pursue and attract significant funding from public and private sources outside of our region.
With $18,000 in support from the Leverage Fund, Appalachian Mountain Community Health Centers (AMCHC) worked with a grant writing consultant to secure $150,000 from the federal Rural Communities Opioid Response Grant Program. With these funds, AMCHC will work as part of a regional partnership with rural federally qualified health centers, local health departments, Mountain Area Health Education Center (MAHEC), Vaya Health, Mountain Wise and the UNC Gillings School of Public Health to serve Cherokee, Clay and Graham Counties. These counties have been hardest hit by opioid use and a shortage of providers and services to address prevention, treatment and recovery. AMCHC and its partners will be implementing a strategic plan, workforce development plan and a sustainability plan that they developed together to serve this tri-county region.
In October 2021, Dogwood’s board unanimously approved a new, multi-year grantmaking strategy with clear goals and objectives to guide our work forward in equitable and effective ways in the coming years. This strategy was the result of months of research, consultation and discussion with national experts, community partners and internal board and staff Impact Strategy Teams.
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Click on a strategic priority to learn more about that priority.
Health, wellbeing and security begin when people are safely and affordably housed. There are many area partners who bring strengths, expertise and assets to this work. In addition to providing some grant funding for this purpose, Dogwood will play the role of bridge funder, loan guarantor, or equity partner rather than simply writing a grant check. This helps increase our impact in the region while preserving grant funds for other strategic purposes.
We believe education begins at birth and lasts throughout life. It can be a key to unleash the potential of opportunity for everyone to obtain a fulfilling job, secure a safe and stable home, and enjoy better health outcomes, especially for those whose communities have been under-resourced. Therefore, education should be equitable, excellent in its delivery and accessible to all regardless of place, gender or ethnicity. We are committed to investing deeply across all sectors of education: early childhood, K-12, and post-secondary.
We believe the ability to earn an income which can sufficiently support a family is at the foundation of sustaining a healthy life. We believe economic opportunity is our greatest weapon in the fight against poverty and to improve all social determinants of health. Using the philanthropic tools of impact investing and program-related investments, Dogwood Health Trust helps our region’s economic developers attract and grow local businesses to create a more dynamic economy with jobs that support families in their pursuit of healthy and fulfilling lives.
Everyone deserves to be healthy regardless of status, resources or circumstances. Equity within health and wellness occurs when people can attain their full health potential. No one should be disadvantaged in this opportunity. We aim to support access to care, improve the social conditions that contribute to health, and support upstream interventions and social determinants of health. We work to create healthy communities to ensure that everyone in WNC has the physical and mental ability to fully participate in education and employment opportunities, and to maintain a safe and stable home for themselves and their families.
Serving the region for more than 25 years, WNC Health Network (WNCHN) exists to support community health across Western North Carolina. In September 2020, WNCHN began a collaborative regional COVID-19 communications campaign, supporting and coordinating efforts of local public health agencies throughout Western North Carolina to effectively share crucial information and messages related to COVID-19 with local residents. Because community leaders and advocates are often some of the most trusted voices in their communities, the campaign features images and video testimonials of local community members sharing their motivations for practicing COVID-safe behaviors and why they received the COVID-19 vaccine. To date, the campaign has had over 1 million views, and more than half of those seeing the campaign sought more information, changed their prevention behaviors or considered or got the vaccine.