by Jennifer Tolle Whiteside
How many times do you look up from what you are doing to see that most of the day is gone? Where does the time go? It’s that way, on most days, here at my desk in the westernmost part of the state. I cover the western mountain counties of Cherokee, Madison, Haywood, Jackson, Macon, Swain, Graham, Clay and also the Eastern Band of Cherokees.
This is the end of the 2014 grant cycle and the beginning of the 2015 cycle in most of my counties. We have just completed site visits to a number of nonprofits to ensure that the dollars they received during our past grant cycle have been used according to their proposals.
I hear quite often that we are the forgotten part of the state. That everything stops in Asheville. I can assure you that within our Foundation that is not the case. Our reach extends from Manteo to Murphy, and I’ll give you an example of how we tie things together.
Just this week I was at a grants award presentation in Swain County (the only county in my area with a spring grant cycle) where we listened to the stories from nonprofit agencies. A representative of one of these agencies, the Blue Ridge Mountain Health Project, spoke of the work their free dental clinic is performing in western NC. They have 14 volunteer dentists who come from all over the country. If you aren’t aware, North Carolina is the only state that doesn’t reciprocate dental licenses. This means that dentists who want to volunteer their services have to go through the process of getting a volunteer license. The extra work might be a deterrent for some dentists, but not the dedicated team at BRMHP. The clinic is determined to save, not only people’s teeth, but their dignity.
Imagine my excitement when I found out that the clinic was just awarded another grant from one of our statewide funds, the N.C. Dental Health Endowment! This fund was started by a generous donor from the eastern part of the state. Adding to that, I just received an email from the Blue Ridge Clinic that they were treating five women from a shelter in Jackson County. This shelter received funds this past year from another NCCF affiliate, the Jackson County Community Foundation.
We truly are in this together, and here at the N.C. Community Foundation we believe that by connecting communities together, we can strengthen us all. This collective attitude is what makes my job so special and why, at the end of the day, I know that my time was well spent.