Foundation’s Place-Based Initiative Focuses on Community Needs

by Kate Menzies

Learn more about Healthy Places NC in RHIhub’s Rural Health Models & Innovations.

A Kaboom! playground in Rockingham County, North Carolina, funded by the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust

A Kaboom! playground in Rockingham County, North Carolina, funded by the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust

The Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust is shaking things up in the world of rural philanthropic giving by providing up to $100 million in place-based grants to 10 to 12 financially-disadvantaged counties in North Carolina over the next 10 years.

This initiative, dubbed Healthy Places NC, is unique in that the Trust is building relationships and working collaboratively with each community to determine and meet local needs, rather than being prescriptive about how funds should be used. Local leaders and residents use their knowledge about their communities to develop and spearhead healthy programming in their area. The Trust determines which projects will be grant-funded based on community needs and engagement, as well as the prospect of the program producing long-term, sustainable change. The goal is to improve local health outcomes for rural residents by increasing their quality of life and improving the communities’ culture of health.

We want rural communities to have the same opportunities for program support as in urban areas.

Jehan Benton-Clark, a senior program officer at the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust, believes that Healthy Places NC is successful because it engages local residents in new and different ways, tying in numerous entities such as the chambers of commerce, economic development offices, faith groups, and others to improve health outcomes.

“We saw a niche where not many funders were filling a role in rural areas,” said Benton-Clark. “We want rural communities to have the same opportunities for program support as in urban areas.”

Jehan Benton-Clark, a senior program officer of the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust, speaking with leaders in Halifax County

Jehan Benton-Clark, a senior program officer of the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust, speaking with leaders in Halifax County

Benton-Clark oversees Healthy Places NC work in the counties of Halifax, Rockingham, Edgecombe, and Nash, in central North Carolina.

“As a representative for the Trust, I try to see what resources the communities need and how the Trust can play a helpful role,” said Benton-Clark. “I see what nonprofits and resources are available to help, facilitate conversations with different groups, and try to understand paradigm relationships within the community to better provide services.”

In the communities that she has helped, various health topics have been the focus. In Halifax County, the state’s first federally-funded clinic within a hospital was launched with a goal of increasing the number of new patients visiting primary care doctors and reducing emergency room visits. In Rockingham County, the Nurse-Family Partnership, an evidence-based community health program, was formed. The program pairs low-income pregnant women with nurses for up to two years, and supports a new network of primary healthcare services for low-income families. In Edgecombe and Nash, expanding behavioral health services at Federally Qualified Health Centers has been the focus.

People like Benton-Clark work to bring these programs into fruition.

We don’t tell communities what to do, but rather give them the tools and access to resources to bring these programs to life.

“We don’t tell communities what to do, but rather give them the tools and access to resources to bring these programs to life,” said Benton-Clark.

Benton-Clark thinks other funders should consider doing philanthropy with place-based grants. In rural areas especially, long-standing relationships that occur within communities often help facilitate the success of these grants, bettering local health outcomes.