Nantahala Health Foundation Announces Its 2022 Community Investment Awards

January 10, 2023

Nantahala Health Foundation’s Board of Directors approved total community investment grants of $172,000 to local nonprofit organizations working to improve health and wellness outcomes for the region’s most underserved men, women and children.

The grant investments were made through Nantahala Health Foundation’s Collaborative Health Innovation Project (CHIP) and Needs Immediately Met (NIMble) programs. Criteria to receive a CHIP award depended heavily on local organizations joining forces with at least one collaborating partner. NIMble grants, on the other hand, were made to ensure urgent needs would not jeopardize the organization’s ability to serve their clients. With both grant programs, Nantahala Health Foundation seeks to identify unique approaches to eliminating root-cause barriers to health and wellness.

Organizations awarded Nantahala Health Foundation grant funding will launch or continue providing proven programs to improve the health of individuals living within the Foundation’s service area, which includes Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Swain, Jackson, and Macon counties, as well as the Qualla Boundary. Last year’s Foundational grant investments will support the following projects:

  • Blue Ridge Health– NHF provided funding so that this nonprofit health provider could purchase an ultrasound to provide obstetrics-related services at its Jackson County/Sylva Clinic.

  • Clay County Emergency Management– NHF provided funding to launch a countywide Emergency Management Technician Training Fellowship, which will offer students a viable career option, as well as increase the EMT department’s available manpower.
  • REACH of Macon County– NHF provided funding to ensure a 24-hour crisis line remains available for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and human trafficking throughout the region.
  • Rolling Start NC– NHF provided funding to this Jackson County-based nonprofit so that they could provide safe and reliable transportation to 12 or more individuals and families living in poverty, thus improving their chances of getting and keeping employment, and enhancing their access to educational opportunities, community engagement, medical services, and quality-of-life activities.

  • Vecinos– NHF provided funding to renovate their recently purchased building in Franklin so that it will accommodate a Community Health Hub where uninsured, low-income LatinX community members may seek a variety of human and health services in a confidential manner and in a culturally appropriate, Spanish-speaking environment.

  • Western Carolina Pacesetters– NHF provided funding to this Andrews-based nonprofit to address the need for a stabilized restorative justice continuum in the far western counties of North Carolina and help to provide positive role models for the youth of the area by adding a staff member who specializes in trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy and Mental Health First Aid.

“At its core, Nantahala Health Foundation’s mission is to serve as a catalyst for innovation and collaboration for nonprofit organizations working to make life better for underserved members of our community. This mission alone frames the eligibility criteria for our CHIP and NIMble grant investments,” Nantahala Health Foundation Executive Director Lori Bailey said. “Through each of the awarded projects, we continue to be excited to invest in the most collaborative and innovative work addressing social health drivers in our region.”

Social drivers of health, coupled with lifestyle choices often based on their availability and ease of access, directly impact more than 80 percent of an individual’s health outcomes, leaving only about 20 percent resulting from clinical care. Therefore, to have the greatest possible impact on health for the people of this region, Nantahala Health Foundation’s board of directors has chosen to invest in work that most improves where and how our residents live, learn, work, and ultimately thrive, according to NHF board chair David Garrett.

“At this point the research is undeniable: Social drivers of health and actively taking advantage of beneficial lifestyle choices when they are available and accessible far exceed cumulative physician visits when it comes to predicting an individual’s day-to-day and long-term health outcomes,” said Garrett. “Our Foundation is committed to achieving our mission of improved health for all by prioritizing investments in organizations working in this arena.”

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Healthy People 2030 report, social drivers of health for individuals can be grouped into five categories:

  • economic stability
  • education access and quality
  • heathcare access and quality
  • neighborhoods and built environments
  • social and community context

All too often, these health drivers contribute to disparities and inequities within some communities. For example, people who do not have access to grocery stores with healthy foods are less likely to have good nutrition. This lack of access raises their risk of life-threatening health conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and obesity — and even lowers their life expectancy relative to people who do have access to healthy foods, according to Healthy People 2030.

“Unfortunately, simply promoting the benefits of making healthy choices does not eliminate these and other health disparities when beneficial choices are not available or accessible,” Garrett said. “Instead, philanthropic groups like Nantahala Health Foundation must work in collaboration with public health organizations and our nonprofit partners in sectors like education, individual and family support services, transportation, and housing to take action to improve the conditions in people’s environments.”

More About Nantahala Health Foundation

Nantahala Health Foundation partners with nonprofit organizations and governmental agencies in Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Jackson, Macon, and Swain counties and the Qualla Boundary to improve health and wellness outcomes for all. By addressing the root causes of health inequities and by removing barriers to quality healthcare, education and economic opportunities, NHF’s impact is broadly felt in its partnerships with regional change-makers.

Since its establishment in 2019, Nantahala Health Foundation has employed its grants programs to award more than $3.46 million in support to some 175 programs, all of which have contributed a total regional investment of more than $11.4 million and the improvement of thousands of lives. NHF’s operations, which were launched with a modest $15 million investment under the direction of a volunteer board of directors, require public support if they are to continue to serve as one of Western North Carolina’s most influential health-related philanthropic entities. Those who wish to learn more about their work within the region and how best to support it are invited to visit their website at or call 828.634.1527.