Nantahala Health Foundation to invest more than $470,000 in regional health, wellness initiatives

January 7, 2022

Nantahala Health Foundation is pleased to announce it will invest more than $470,000 in 13 regional nonprofit organizations through its Collaborative Health Innovation Project (CHIP) grant-making program this month in support of their efforts to improve health and wellness outcomes for many of our region’s most underprivileged residents.

The success of each awarded proposal depends heavily on the applying organization teaming up with at least one, and in some cases more than five, collaborating partners. Likewise, each agency’s proposal, once implemented, seeks to apply a unique approach to eliminating root-cause barriers to health and wellness, according to Nantahala Health Foundation Executive Director Lori Bailey.

“At our core, Nantahala Health Foundation’s mission is to serve as a catalyst for innovation and collaboration. This mission framed the eligibility criteria for our second round of CHIP grant awards,” Bailey said. “Through our grant review process, we were excited to discover so many collaborative and innovative projects being considered or already at work addressing social determinants of health in our region.”

Social determinants of health are known to directly impact up to 50% of an individual’s health outcomes over their lifetime. When coupled with lifestyle choices, which impact about 30% of expected health outcomes, only 20% of an individual’s health is directly related to clinical visits and care. In other words, where and how you live, learn, work, and thrive significantly influences (up to 80%) your long-term health outcomes.

“An ever-growing body of research illustrates that social determinants of health and lifestyle choices far exceed cumulative physician visits when it comes to predicting health outcomes,” said David Garrett, who serves as chair of Nantahala Health Foundation’s board of directors. “That’s why we have chosen to work with organizations specifically addressing social determinants of health as a way of improving wellness for all in Western North Carolina.”

Organizations awarded CHIP funding will launch or continue programs to improve the health of individuals in Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Swain, Jackson, and Macon counties, as well as the Qualla Boundary. Additionally, CHIP grant funds will support programs designed to address NHF’s mission priorities, which include general health and healthcare, education, economic stability, and organizational capacity building.

CHIP grant investments will support the following efforts in these categories:


Hinton Rural Life Center, Hayesville – To support their work to repair and/or modify the homes of hospital patients with limited financial resources, thus ensuring these individuals return to a safe and healthy environment following their hospital stay.

Swain County Health Department, Bryson City – To meet the basic dental needs of Swain County residents who do not have dental insurance, thus reducing their risk for complications that could negatively impact their health.

Veteran Smiles Foundation, Maggie Valley – To provide support for eligible veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces in need of dental care.


MANNA FoodBank, AshevilleTo continue food distribution for individuals and families facing food insecurities in Macon County by identifying a permanent location for the MANNA Community Market and by exploring options to host a separate MANNA Community Market site in the Nantahala Community.

Rolling Start NC, Cullowhee – To 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.

United Christian Ministries, Sylva – To address food insecurity through the purchase of a cargo van to transport nutritional food items from producers/farmers to low-income consumers and food pantry locations in Jackson County.


North Carolina Bartrum Trail Society, FranklinTo provide Macon County High School students with a variety of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) educational opportunities and to explore future environmental career paths via youth and volunteer trail maintenance experiences.

Southwestern Community College, Sylva – To employ a part-time instructor/job coach to assist with Project SEARCH, which provides instruction and educational assistance to disabled young adults living in Jackson, Macon, and Swain counties so that they may be better able to explore potential careers and eventually be placed in stable, long-term employment, allowing them to become self-sufficient adults.


AWAKE Children’s Advocacy Center, Sylva – To establish and launch a new nonprofit, Child Medical Collaborative, which will serve to address the lack of child medical providers in our region, specifically those who specialize in treating victims of abuse.

Mountain Projects, Sylva – To build the personnel capacity of their organization’s home repairs and rehabilitation program, which works to ensure elderly and disadvantaged individuals in Jackson County are able to remain safely in their homes.

REACH of Macon County, Franklin – To employ a human trafficking specialist and a victim support advocate with a goal of developing a multi-disciplinary task force to strengthen victim response in our region.

United Way of Cherokee and Clay Counties, Murphy – To establish and launch a new nonprofit, Community Connections, which will serve to provide parenting education and create opportunities for mutual support among participants, while offering information and education on child development, communication and relationship building, appropriate positive responses to misbehavior, as well as creating a safe and welcoming atmosphere where mutual support systems can develop among participants.

Vecinos Inc., Cullowhee – To establish 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.


Soon after their establishment in early 2019, Nantahala Health Foundation’s Board of Directors focused on strategic planning and regional information gathering designed to achieve their mission of better health and well-being outcomes for all in their service area of Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Jackson, Macon and Swain counties and the Qualla Boundary. After hosting an extensive series of listening sessions designed to identify issues challenging Western North Carolina, they defined their priorities and set about developing programs, including a grant-making initiative, to support their mission.

Working as a catalyst for innovation and collaboration, Nantahala Health Foundation seeks to partner with nonprofit organizations and governmental agencies to achieve better health and wellness outcomes for all. By working to address the upstream, root causes of health inequities and by removing barriers to positive social determinants of health and life-style choices, NHF’s success is seen best in partnerships with regional change-makers. Since its launch, NHF has awarded nearly $3.13 million in support to some 148 programs throughout the region. Visit NHF’s website at to learn more and to join their Healthy Future Movement.