In her lifetime, Trust founder, Kate B. Reynolds, funded charities dedicated to improving the lives of those whom she called “the poor and needy” of North Carolina. In her will she left instructions for a trust to be founded in her name to further this work, with an initial focus on improving the quality of life of people with low incomes in Forsyth County and improving health care around the state.
Today, Mrs. Reynolds’ gifts have enabled us to support thriving communities—partnering together for equitable health care, education, and economic opportunities for North Carolina residents. We center our work around racial equity—to realize the goals Mrs. Reynolds set forth when the Trust was founded, on today’s terms.
As we approach the Trust’s 75th anniversary this year, we’re reflecting on the Trust’s early work, to better understand how to address the root causes of the issues our founder cared about.
To change the system, we need to start with ourselves.
This is the first of a series of stories designed to trace our trajectory from then to now, examining what we can learn by looking back to help us move forward today.
Over the coming months, we look forward to digging in with you to explore our founding history, the complexity of our legacy, and our vision for a more just society that stands up against racism and changes the system to ensure equitable health, education, and economic outcomes for all residents.
In order to move forward in our efforts to achieve racial equity and change systems so people with low incomes and people of color in North Carolina receive the access and support they need to succeed, we must take a transparent look at our past.
Focusing on charity work
On June 11, 1947, the Kate B. Reynolds Trust made its first grant of $16,000 for visiting home nurses to the Community Nursing Service, with a goal of improving maternal and infant care. The organization provided in-home care for “poor and needy” white and Black residents of Winston-Salem and Forsyth County. Through this first charitable grant, five nurses made as many as 450 visits per month in those early years.
The Trust would go on to support Community Nursing Service for nearly 10 years—until the successful project merged with the Forsyth County Health Department. The original trustees never envisioned funding this work indefinitely, however, to meet the goals Mrs. Reynolds set forth, it has become one of the continued efforts of the Trust, even today.
Laying the groundwork
These first grants were a direct reflection of Mrs. Reynolds’ desire to improve the overall quality of life for those in need, across the state and locally in Forsyth County. They also set a clear direction for the Trust that continues now, as we find ways to realize her vision in 2022.
“I would conjecture that Mrs. Reynolds was very aware of who was excluded from getting what they needed in her charity work. From that first grant to support nurse home visiting, I believe she was aware that Black people were not getting what they needed. And I think that informs us today in the work we are doing for racial equity.”
Dr. Laura Gerald, president, Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust
Today, the issues Mrs. Reynolds cared about remain urgent and interconnected. To continue to improve the lives of residents with low incomes, as she instructed us to do 75 years ago, we have to look at the fact that those residents in 1947—and still today—were marginalized by race and place. With racial equity driving our efforts, we now use our capital and influence to change the systems designed to hold back people of color, thereby creating equitable health care, education, and economic opportunities.
Expanding nurse home visiting with our partners
The need for access to affordable, quality healthcare for mothers and babies persists in Forsyth County and throughout the state, with Black families and those with low incomes most impacted.
To address this, Trust support for nurse home visiting programs has totaled more than $12 million dollars since 2005. Nearly $9 million dollars has been invested in the Nurse-Family Partnership in Forsyth County and around the state, which pairs local nurses with new mothers to provide the support and resources they need during and after pregnancy, visiting the mother about twice a month. Importantly, we’ve partnered with other committed foundations, such as The Duke Endowment, to fund this work.
“Our partnership with The Duke Endowment was hugely beneficial. For example, our combined funding to support the Nurse-Family Partnership enabled many NC health departments to start and sustain this most impactful program.”
John Frank, director, Health Care division, Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust
The Trust has also partnered with The Duke Endowment, Novant Health, and Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist to support Forsyth Connects, providing nearly three million dollars of support. Forsyth Connects is a free, home visiting program, run through the hospital system, that supports every family in the community after child birth, regardless of their financial circumstances.
The Trust goal today is to impact health systems and local government—for lasting change. As a result of these partnerships, hospitals are now examining the data from their efforts to see how to better achieve health equity in ways that make sense for their systems. The implementation of nurse family visits has also been piloted in North Carolina through Medicaid. However, there is still much work to do.
“Home visiting can play a critical role in navigating pregnant and new mothers through broken and bewildering systems. We know that this saves lives. But these programs also show us that we have to fix the systems if we want to ensure that all birthing people have safe pregnancies and deliveries, and that babies thrive in their first formative years.”
— Adam Linker, director of programs, Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust
Prioritizing the health of Black mothers and babies
In North Carolina and around the nation, the infant mortality rate for Black children is still nearly three times higher than the mortality rate for white children. That’s why today the Trust is focusing on changing systems to support the health of Black families, who have been denied access to quality health care for far too long. We also invest in the capacity of grassroots organizations led by people of color, like Boston Thurman United, to understand root causes and develop community-based solutions.
“As a Black mother of two adult daughters, it’s important that there is a community where my daughters are safe to deliver babies. Once we ensure that Black mothers in particular, have safe births and successful first years with their babies, we will be able to ensure that all mothers are successful in Forsyth County.”
— Shenell McClurkin Thompson, senior program officer, Local Impact in Forsyth County, Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust
Continuing the journey
The Trust has been working for 75 years to improve the health and quality of life for residents in Forsyth County and across North Carolina. While we continue essential charitable efforts to support the health of families with young children, our focus is on addressing root causes of health inequities by changing the systems that have held people back. And we know that there is no credible route to systems change that does not go through racial equity. When we address inequities by race, every resident will thrive.