2021: Looking Inward, Looking Onward

Dear colleagues and friends,

As we approach the New Year, we are taking a moment to reflect on 2021, a year when we deepened our commitment to racial equity at the Trust. At the same time, we are looking ahead, to make sure racial equity is front and center in our work in 2022.

To achieve the long-term change we know is needed to close health, education, and economic disparities by race and place, we are becoming more intentional about our racial equity journey. We are investing in organizations led by people of color and focusing on shifting policies that have historically held residents back.

This work is not new to us; it’s at the core of how we work to achieve Mrs. Reynolds’ vision on today’s terms. We are being intentional about how we can have an even greater impact in the years to come.

Looking inward, we continue our racial equity journey.

During this challenging year of an ongoing pandemic and nationwide calls for racial equity and justice, we have dug deeper into our own internal equity work at the Trust. We have intentionally diversified our team to ensure we have more people with lived experience helping to guide our work to change the systems that have negatively impacted so many people of color. We established an equity team to think through how to improve our programmatic, administration, communications, and evaluation practices with an eye on decreasing racial disparities and empowering people of color.

As our 75th anniversary approaches, we are looking back at our region’s history and our own—as a way to own our past and work for a more equitable future. When Mrs. Reynolds created the Trust nearly 75 years ago, schools and services were segregated by race, workplace, hiring discrimination against Black residents was commonplace, and there were few places for people of color to receive health care. Although segregation has been abolished and there are anti-discrimination laws in place, we still see staggering disparities based on the color of someone’s skin. We believe an essential way to change this is by looking at the data, identifying where inequities exist, listening to communities being impacted, and investing in ways that ultimately change systems and shift policies that have created persistent disparities.

Looking outward, we invest in communities working for change.

This year, COVID-19 continued to spotlight the systemic issues we face in our health care system. People of color, rural areas, and residents with low incomes were hit hard, and we continue to see disparities in vaccination rates by race. For example, as of November 2021, 55 percent of white residents in North Carolina have been vaccinated, compared to 45 percent of Black residents, 39 percent of Native American residents, and 48 percent of Latinx residents.

To respond to COVID-19, the Trust has invested more than $8.4 million since 2020 to support urgent needs, such as food and housing, bolster the health care system, and ensure immigrant-led groups and organizations led by people of color had the resources they needed to respond to those most impacted by the crisis.

We intentionally ensured community was leading this work—responding to immediate needs and now working to recover from the pandemic. For example, we awarded grants to 23 immigrant-led organizations to expand education and outreach to people who were hit hardest by COVID-19, and to increase access to testing, tracing, and vaccinations. The success stories we heard from grantees—vaccinating one person every 3.5 minutes at a soccer game, feeding hundreds of families, raising vaccine awareness with 100,000 Latinx residents—showed the deep commitment and collaborative spirt of so many during a difficult, distanced year.

As we look ahead to 2022, we know that to fully recover from the pandemic and create systems that provide opportunity to all, we must address the historic problems around health, education, and economic inequality that plague so many of the communities we serve.

In 2021, we invested over $4.6 million in Forsyth County and $15.3 million statewide.

Some examples of the efforts we’ve supported in 2021 include:

  • Equitable Access to Care: North Carolina is one of only 12 states that has not expanded Medicaid, and the state uninsured rate rose to 13.8 percent during COVID-19. More than 620,000 non-elderly adults remain uninsured, and the Trust continues to invest in organizations working to close the coverage gap to ensure every resident has access to quality health care.
  • Equitable Health Outcomes: Our state ranks 37th in the nation for public health spending, and in the mid-2010s, North Carolina was one of a handful of states where public health spending shrank. The Trust made grants to a number of North Carolina public health departments to respond to urgent needs during the pandemic. We are supporting the North Carolina Institute of Medicine Task Force to convene leaders and residents to determine what is needed so that our public health system is better prepared to address the next crisis and ensure equity within the system for future generations.
  • Healthy Places NC: As we near the end of our 10-year place-based initiative to improve the health of 10 rural counties, we are increasing capacity-building efforts for organizations led by people of color. Groups have mapped food systems, explored solutions to Adverse Childhood Experiences, convened around the opioid epidemic, and identified local and statewide policies that must change to close disparities in their communities. Many of these leaders and organizations are now poised to implement innovative ideas and action plans to address these issues, and are connecting to statewide efforts to shift systems long-term.
  • Great Expectations: Locally, we are supporting efforts to bring affordable, quality Pre-K to all children in Forsyth County. While this work is ongoing, we made new grants to Action4Equity and Latino Community Services to ensure parents’ voices and communities of color are front and center in the work to build a more equitable, accessible early childhood system in Forsyth County. We are also investing in groups working to address Adverse Childhood Experiences to create a community that recognizes trauma, rather than punishing children and their families for their experiences.
  • Inclusive Economy: As we think about how to create a more inclusive economy in our own backyard, we are investing in organizations working with youth who have been disconnected from school and work to help our next generation pave a new way forward.

Looking onward, we celebrate 75 years and reflect on the work ahead.

Next year, the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust will celebrate 75 years of working to improve the health and quality of life of people with low incomes, as Mrs. Reynolds asked us to do in 1947. This has also provided us with time to reflect on how the money we hold and direct can have a greater impact moving forward. We believe equity must be front and center in all we do, and we will spend 2022 determining how to use our resources in a way that can right the wrongs of the past and create new and different policies that give us more hope for a brighter future.

The pandemic has exacerbated so many of the already existing issues in our state—and many have experienced loss and anxiety. At the same time, the experiences have brought so many of us together, and we are profoundly grateful to you all for that. We enter 2022 committed to this work—constantly identifying ways to do more with our resources—working together for a better tomorrow.

We remain focused on achieving equitable health outcomes and helping all communities and residents thrive, and we hope you’ll join us in this work.

Wishing you all a healthy and happy holiday and New Year.

Dr. Laura Gerald
Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust