Dr. Laura Gerald: Celebrating 70 Years of Fostering Change

This month, the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust celebrates 70 years of investing in community well-being and improving North Carolinians’ health and quality of life. At the same time, I celebrate my one-year anniversary at the Trust.

During this past year, I have learned so much about the people and organizations the Trust has helped since it began in 1947—from its first grant to a Forsyth County home visiting program for new moms to our recent investment ensuring every baby born in Forsyth County receives a home visit from a nurse.

The Trust truly has come full circle.

Yet these two home visiting programs—separated by 70 years—are not the same; because the world is different, and it’s our job to deliver on Mrs. Reynolds’ vision in today’s context. As I have traveled around the state, I have observed enormous strength and entrepreneurship locally and in our rural communities—as well as systems and policies that hold once-thriving communities back and increase the chances of poor health, poverty, and job loss. I have seen places where the social determinants of health—the conditions where people live, work and play—have a greater impact on health outcomes than the quality or proximity of a local hospital.

I continue to learn that there’s still much to do.

As we celebrate 70 years, I’d like to share exciting news, as well as our plans for the work ahead.

New Names for Trust Bodies of Work

We are excited to announce new names for our Divisions—our work will now fall under two program areas: Health Improvement in North Carolina and Local Impact in Forsyth County. While our focus on Forsyth County and health care statewide will not change, the way we talk about this work and frame our intentions is evolving to better support the changes we want to see in community and our ability to be the change we want to see.

There will no longer be a ‘Poor and Needy Division.’ We’ve renamed this Local Impact in Forsyth County—because we foster equitable and sustainable solutions in our hometown.

There will no longer be a ‘Health Care Division.’ We’ve renamed it Health Improvement in North Carolina—because we support community-wide health improvements across the state.

We aligned these new names in place—as placed-based work is such a dominant part of what we do at the Trust. We believe these new names preserve the vision of Mrs.Reynolds, while signifying who we are today and how we can be effective in partnership with the communities we serve.

Restating Our Strategic Vision

In this newsletter, you will find the foundation’s new updated Strategic Vision. As we look back at the past 70 years in celebration and look ahead toward all we still need to do, we felt it was time to underscore why we do this work and the change we support.

The Work Ahead to Make Change

When I arrived one year ago, the Trust was implementing a sound strategy to help communities in Forsyth County and around the state thrive. I am excited to help strengthen and grow this work so we can have the greatest impact on the communities we serve. Let me use this opportunity to share what we believe it will take to make sustainable, long-term change.

Listening to and learning from the people we serve is critical to our success. In recent years, through Healthy Places NC, the Trust has been very intentional about spending time listening to residents about what their communities need to thrive. In Great Expectations, we are expanding this commitment by listening to and learning from local parents so that we can make better investments to support their families.

Clearly defining success and mapping how to get there will serve as our compass moving forward. The Trust is committed to long-term, sustainable community change. The entire staff is working as a team to better define success, identify the results we want to see, and begin mapping measurements to ensure we’re on track.

Continuous learning means also looking at ourselves. I am proud to say that I am leading an amazing team at the Trust, and we are working to practice what we preach when it comes to creating a supportive culture, applying an equity lens, and insisting on true collaboration to achieve results.

A new approach is needed when the context around us has shifted. We are putting fresh eyes on our special initiatives—Healthy Places NC and Great Expectations—to ensure we are being thoughtful and impactful given the current climate of our state and world. This strategic review may also impact our issue areas as we determine the most effective tools and strategies.

We will only achieve equity and success when systems and policies change. We believe that to improve the health and well-being of Forsyth County and the entire state, we must invest in those communities where a persistent lack of opportunity prompts great need. We believe that changes in the systems that have historically perpetuated inequities are essential to affect outcomes in a sustainable way. That’s why we work in partnership with residents, local organizations, and agencies to influence those systems so everyone can have the opportunity to thrive.

We Are Excited to Continue this Work with All of You

As I travel around the state, I tell people that it is an incredible and essential time to be doing this work in North Carolina. We have so many collective strengths. And it is our responsibility to make sure no one is left behind. We want to ensure that our community and our state provide equitable access to quality healthcare, educational attainment, and economic opportunities. That is our commitment to Mrs. Reynolds’ vision, to Forsyth County, and to North Carolina.

Please read our new Strategic Vision to learn more about this exciting work.