Supporting Equity so Communities Thrive

Supporting Equity & Capacity Building

Using an equity lens that looks at disparities by race and place, the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust is focused on improving long-term health outcomes in rural North Carolina through its Healthy Places NC work. The Trust works with communities to build the capacity of new leaders, bring unlikely partners together, and impact local, county, and state policies to support thriving communities and a healthier state.

This means the Trust is making grants to build the capacity of grassroots community-based groups—those located in or working directly with areas that have been left out of opportunity. These organizations are often deeply connected to residents with few resources, and they know best what their community needs to thrive. By investing in these community groups, the Trust is giving organizations the capacity to lead the change they want to see in their counties—to convene residents, identify opportunities and challenges, and determine the best way to make progress locally around issues such as eliminating food deserts, creating more places for children to be active, and addressing poor housing conditions.

This work can be seen in communities like McDowell County, where Centro Unido Latino-Americano is empowering the Latinx community of McDowell to create a healthier and more equitable community, and in Beaufort County, where Alpha Life Enrichment Center is leading work to promote healthy eating and build a more equitable food system. In Forsyth County, resident-led groups are engaging community members around key issues such as neighborhood redevelopment, economic opportunity, and educational equity.

Centro Unido Latino-Americano – Empowering the Latinx Community in McDowell

There is a growing Latinx community in western North Carolina, but in McDowell County the Latinx residents have historically been left out of conversations around what they need to live healthier lives. Centro Unido Latino-Americano is bringing the Latinx community to the table in McDowell to create a healthier, more inclusive community. Specifically, the organization is working to provide food access and additional resources for the Spanish-speaking community in McDowell County and the surrounding area. The Trust provided a grant to the organization for general operating funds, which it used to open a food pantry in June and expand its community services by hiring additional staff members to better serve the area.

“We now have a larger capacity to build relationships with the wider McDowell community,” said Kathy Arriola, executive director of Centro Unido Latino-Americano. “Having a bigger budget to support additional staff members has allowed me to attend more core committee meetings and make sure voices throughout the community are being heard.”

Working with the Trust has also offered the opportunity for Centro Unido Latino-Americano to tap into the expertise of Rural Forward NC—the Healthy Places NC regional support organization that provides communities with technical assistance to advance their work.

“Rural Forward NC is helping us work better as a small organization and is helping develop our goals and strategy,” said Arriola. “We’re excited to work with the Trust to ensure Centro Unido can continue to offer a variety of key resources to this community.”

Alpha Life Enrichment Center – Addressing Food Deserts in Beaufort County

Although Beaufort County in rural eastern North Carolina has strong agricultural roots and a large farming community, many areas of the county are considered food deserts, meaning residents must drive for many miles to get to a grocery store. To address this disparity, Alpha Life Enrichment Center—led by Bill Booth, a local famer who also teaches young people to grow their own food—is working to build the community’s capacity to address food insecurity by better connecting growers with the communities they serve.

The Alpha Life Enrichment Center received funding from the Trust to get ready for the spring growing season and enlist a new cohort of farmers including a group of African American female growers, to address a lack of community access to healthy foods. Alpha Life Enrichment Center also used the funding to increase its capacity by hiring a part-time staff member and extend its regional reach across Beaufort County lines.

“Being able to expand our staff has been life-changing for me,” said Bill Booth, community outreach coordinator at the Alpha Life Enrichment Center. “I can now focus on being out in the community and building relationships with growers and other community health organizations, because the details are being kept on track internally.”

As the year winds down, Booth is focused on preparing for future farmers markets and related events in the spring and addressing pressing issues, including the food desert in Aurora, North Carolina.

“There is not a single grocery store in Aurora,” said Booth. “This grant [from the Trust] has given me something invaluable: more time to address such issues. I can now recruit additional growers, set up community events to address food insecurity, and better serve our community.”

Forsyth County – Building the Capacity of Grassroots Organizations

The work happening in McDowell and Beaufort counties are just a couple of examples of the hard work taking place in communities across the state to increase equity and help communities thrive. This fall the Trust also awarded a series of grants to local organizations in Forsyth County that are working to build the capacity of residents of color and low-wealth communities. For example, Neighbors for Better Neighborhoods and Love Out Loud are both working in underserved areas to encourage broader resident engagement around community improvement efforts.

Wake Forest University, serving as backbone agency for the Boston-Thurmond Community Network, and Neighbors for Better Neighborhoods, in support of the Boston-Thurmond Community Engagement Roundtable, received Trust capacity building grants to support the work of Boston-Thurmond residents to drive change and explore community development models in their area.

Grantees including the Institute for Dismantling Racism and Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Forsyth County, Inc. are working with residents to address educational inequities and asset poverty.

“We cannot make progress if we do not invest in and empower the people most impacted by lack of access to health care, education and economic opportunities,” said Dr. Laura Gerald, president of the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust. “Locally and around the state we are investing in community engagement efforts to ensure everyone has a voice at the table and the capacity to make change in their own community.”

For more information about recent grant awards, visit