Grant funds target health disparities


Staff Writer

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

The Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust is continuing to help improve the health outcomes for residents in Nash and Edgecombe counties as it recently gave away more than $300,000 in grant funding to local agencies.

The trust approved a $195,828 grant to the N.C. Association of Community Development Corps. to provide leadership training and skill building on how community conditions impact health to residents in 14 of the Twin Counties’ most marginalized communities. 

The grant builds on community improvement efforts resulting from the Twin Counties Visioning and Strategic Planning Process, which highlighted deep inequities in the health outcomes of Twin Counties residents based on race, trust officials said. The grant will allow the association to connect residents with Legal Aid of North Carolina, a nonprofit law firm that provides free legal services in civil matters to low-income people. 

Sue Perry Cole, president and CEO of the association, said you can’t tell people to just eat better and exercise more because where you live is a leading indicator of health.

“We reached out to Legal Aid of NC because they have expertise in fair housing enforcement,” Cole said. “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 choices, which will require broad reform and citizen partcipation.”

Trust officials said with the grant, the association also will expand its community academy program, which cultivates resident leadership in the Twin Counties Visioning and Strategic Planning Process and related community revitalization efforts. The funding also will go toward engagement efforts focusing on youth participation and building future community leaders.

Aidil Ortiz, program officer for the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust, said the community academy program helps communities understand local government better.

“This money in the community academy is going to help make sure those groups in those critical neighborhoods are very active and ready to engage the government in what they believe will make their communities better and healthier,” Ortiz said. “This will also help them learn all types of skills, like how to talk to elected officials and understanding functions of government.”

The trust also invested $142,087 in the Franklinton Center at Bricks in Whitakers in Edgecombe County. The Franklinton Center is a former slave plantation that became one of the first accredited schools for African-Americans in the South. Today, it’s a conference, retreat and educational center that serves the community through projects on topics including food justice and literacy outreach, according to the organization’s website.

Ortiz said the Franklinton Center isn’t just a place where people have gathered for an exercise class or learned about nutrition, but for example a place where local farmers have gathered to think about how they’re going to sell more healthy products in the communities or where local school system officials go to discuss what they need to do to provide healthy food or healthy programming to students. 

Ortiz said the funding is a way of giving the Franklinton Center more resources to host more gatherings centered around health-related topics. Dr. Laura Gerald, president of the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust, said it’s important for the agency to tackle the issues of fair housing and food access in the Twin Counties.

“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,” Gerald said. “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. “The Twin Counties are on the leading edge of addressing what we call the social determinants of health, which are 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.”