Twin Counties Residents Unite to Improve Quality of Life and Health in Underserved Areas

Investment Part of Long-Term Healthy Places NC Initiative

With support from the Trust, residents in Edgecombe and Nash Counties are working together to improve the health of the community by tackling the issues of fair housing and food access. This investment is part of Healthy Places NC—the Trust’s long-term commitment to improving the health of residents in the state’s rural, under-resourced counties.

The Trust approved a $195,828 grant to the North Carolina Association of Community Development Corporations (the Association) to support efforts providing residents in 14 of the counties’ most marginalized communities with leadership training and skill building on how community conditions impact health. The Association is also connecting residents with Legal Aid of NC to elevate their voices in fair housing reform discussions taking place in the community.

The grant builds on community improvement efforts resulting from the Twin Counties Visioning and Strategic Planning Process (TCVSPP), which highlighted deep inequities in the health outcomes of Twin Counties residents based on race.

“You can’t just tell people to eat better and exercise more. We know that where you live is a leading indicator of your health,” said Sue Perry Cole, president and chief executive officer of the Association. “We reached out to Legal Aid of NC because they have expertise in fair housing enforcement. With their help, we are folding into our work this notion that there is a law called the Fair Housing Act that provides for changing the conditions that many people face in these neighborhoods. We need improved housing and more housing choice, which will require broad reform and citizen participation.”

With the grant, the Association will expand their Community Academy program, which cultivates resident leadership in TCVSPP activities and related community revitalization efforts. The funding will also go toward engagement efforts focusing on youth participation and building future community leaders.

In addition, the Trust is investing in the Franklinton Center at Bricks in Whitakers, NC to support capacity building and strategic planning for the organization. The Franklinton center is a former slave plantation that became one of the first accredited schools for African Americans in the South. Today, it is a conference, retreat, and educational center that serves the community through projects on topics including food justice and literacy outreach.

“As my fellow physicians will tell you, the places where people live, learn, work and play affect a wide range of health risks and outcomes. It is hard to help a child with asthma who leaves your office and goes home to a house infested with mold, or to treat a patient who does not know where her next meal will come from,” said Dr. Laura Gerald, president of the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust. “The Twin Counties are on the leading edge of addressing what we call the social determinants of health—the conditions, such as housing and employment, outside of the health care system that impact a person’s health and well-being. We couldn’t be prouder to continue to partner with the Twin Counties on these critical efforts.”

The Twin Counties are part of the Trust’s Healthy Places NC initiative. The Trust plans to invest $100 million in 10 to 12 rural counties. To date, the Trust has invited seven counties—McDowell, Beaufort, Burke, Halifax, Rockingham, Edgecombe and Nash Counties—to participate. In each county, Healthy Places NC’s work and projects are driven by the community’s concerns, and the Trust works in partnership with residents toward sustainable, long-term change.