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By Paula McLean, MA, LPC,LCASA

Lumberton, NC – Dr. Laura Gerald, president of the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust, and native to Robeson County, expressed her excitement in launching Healthy Places NC in Robeson, Bladen, and Columbus Counties. Gerald, along with North Carolina Institute for Public Health and Rural Forward, introduced Healthy Places NC and its approach to helping communities thrive.

The event attendees were comprised of several local business owners, local government officials and other professionals in the community. The evening included Rural Forward’s facilitation of a “community conversation” by encouraging community members to provide input on strengths and needs gaps in their community.

The interactive strategy demonstrated the initiative’s approach to creating positive change. Presenters explained that Healthy Places NC works with the understanding that each community has unique obstacles and deficits that may result in gaps in services, and access to care.

Healthy Places NC will work to provide grants, guidance, and support to Bladen, Robeson, and Columbus County programs that are already successful in each county. Dr. Gerald stated that Healthy Places NC will provide assistance to existing programs, such as churches, and other non-profit organizations, to increase their outreach in the community.

Though grants are one aspect of the initiative, it will also work with communities by facilitating conversations among community members. These conversations will identify needs gaps in the community.

According to Dr. Gerald, “Many individuals that can participate in these conversations have day jobs. They are doing their jobs, but do not have the capacity to be able to sit down and start these conversations”.

Dr. Gerald explained that Healthy Places NC can provide support such as coordinating meetings that will create the space for the leaders and community members to have these conversations. Healthy Places NC will provide collaboration with resources that will increase each community’s ability to close the gaps that interfere with goals of the health initiative. We will have “boots on the ground” says Dr. Gerald.

“We will not be in an office in Raleigh saying what the communities need,” Gerald added.

Healthy Places NC’s approach includes listening to the members of the communities and designing grants to aid program development.

Nora Ferrell, Communications Director for the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust, has been with the trust since the beginning in 2012. Ferrell described the impact of Healthy Places NC on other communities,

“I have seen community members and groups work together that have never worked together before”, Ferrell says. Lastly, Dr. Gerald explained that funding provided by the trust are not meant for “long-term” financial support.

However, the initiative will work to link communities to other groups, programs, and resources that will increase sustainability.

Information about Kate B. Charitable Trust, as well as grant applications, can be found on their website at kbr.org.

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