Program Representative Interviewed: Paula Swepson, Executive Director
Location: McDowell County, NC
Program Overview:West Marion Inc. is a Black-led nonprofit working to create brave spaces
for community members to share their stories, voice ideas, and build collective power to advance real and
lasting changes related to food insecurity, childcare, mental health, affordable housing, youth engagement,
immigrant justice, economic development, and health equity.
This work has resulted in new
partnerships between grassroots and institutional leaders to advance health equity, a multi-racial
grassroots movement across structurally excluded rural communities, policy and systems change in housing and
transportation, and the re-distribution of resources to programs that strengthen the health and wellbeing of
BIPOC (Black, indigenous, and people of color) communities.
Core strategies of this work include:
Facilitate monthly community forums to build collective power across structurally excluded
Implement community engagement strategies to mobilize grassroots leaders to action.
Foster grassroots and institutional partnerships to advance policy and systems change.
Mentor new leaders and support grassroots leadership development.
Build trust and relationships across people with diverse lived experiences.
The organization brings visibility to the voices and untold stories of rural Black communities. To date,
they have hosted over 150 community forums, bringing together community members to discuss issues like
housing, immigration, racial equity, and community policing. Notably, they organized community members to
create a mural to honor the history of civil rights activism in the town of Old Fort.
The organization has received grants from Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation,
BlueCross and BlueShield of North Carolina Foundation, and Dogwood Health Trust to create community centered
solutions to address childhood obesity, advance health equity for BIPOC communities, and advocate for
policies that result in resilient and thriving rural communities.