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COVID-19 Response in Western North

As soon as it became clear that COVID-19 would pose a serious health and economic threat to Western North Carolina, Dogwood Health Trust responded. We initially allocated $2.5 million to address COVID-19 and then quickly increased that to $10 million to fund testing, personal protective equipment (PPE), clear messaging, and financial support for nonprofits, schools, and businesses hindered by the mandatory shutdown. In addition to responding to immediate needs, Dogwood delivered meaningful impact in ways that effectively launched our strategic initiatives and laid the groundwork for systems change. To that end, we developed a five-prong strategy, with equity components embedded  in each component. As of year-end 2020, our board approved $9 million in COVID-19 related grants, reserving some of our allocation for needs in the coming months. 

To stay updated on Western North Carolina’s PPE availability, needs and opportunities for requesting supplies, you can visit Western Carolina Medical Society’s PPE Supply Chain Update.

We continue to serve the 18 counties of Western North Carolina and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. Our endeavors span key sectors, from K-12 and public health to seniors and underserved communities. Dogwood Health Trust embraces a five-pronged COVID-19 response:

1.  Reduce transmission to flatten the curve

  • Sourced, distributed, and funded thousands of COVID-19 test kits to support public health’s testing and contact tracing efforts in multiple counties and the Qualla Boundary. 

  • Supported COVID-19 testing events in Hispanic/Latino and African American communities with trusted local partners and federally qualified health centers.

  • Collaborated with local Spanish-language media to translate and distribute mainstream media articles on a daily basis.

  • Launched multi-media campaigns in all 18 counties and the Qualla Boundary, focused first on “stay home” and then “wear a mask” messages with additional targeted campaigns to address racial disparities and health risks.

  • Developed an online screening tool deployed in McDowell County, with the goal to scale in the region. (After the state launched its own screener, McDowell County discontinued theirs, but they were proud to be the region’s first.)

  • Supported the creation of a dedicated local COVID-19 testing lab in Western North Carolina.

2. Provide the region with needed supplies and equipment

  • Assessed the critical needs with partners, acquired over $3 million worth of PPE and equipment (e.g., gloves, disposable masks, face shields, hand sanitizer, ventilators, and thermometers), and distributed as in-kind grants to frontline agencies and emergency operations centers. Later provided grants for additional purchases.

  • Partnered with local companies to shift their production lines to the manufacture of PPE.

  • Prioritized distribution to rural counties, first responders, and frontline healthcare workers, as well as to at-risk members of communities of color, including over 33,000 masks to partners for distribution to Henderson, Buncombe, Rutherford, Burke and Macon Counties, as well as to the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.

  • Granted $147,000 to partners to purchase and distribute masks and hand sanitizer.

3. Mitigate the social impact

  • Provided $300,000 in grants to school districts to purchase cellular WiFi hotspots for rural school buses, teachers and seniors.

  • Awarded $100,000 in funding to support the preparation of 87,000 pre-packaged meals for no-contact drop off to vulnerable populations, especially older adults.

  • Assisted community colleges, four-year colleges and universities with $294,000 in funding for safe reopening.
  • Provided $50,000 for emergency homeless shelter needs, both financial and in-kind PPE.

  • Supported the distribution of over 25,000 pounds of processed chicken and 700 live hogs from the eastern part of the state to families through Western North Carolina in partnership with WNC Communities.

4. Collaborate with other funders

  • Invested $125,000 in the Community Foundation of Western North Carolina Emergency Response Fund and $100,000 in the One Buncombe Fund.

  • Purchased laptops for the expansion of United Way’s 211 system to handle increased call volume.

5. Provide bridge funding until emergency funds available

  • Partnered with Mountain BizWorks to support targeted outreach to rural, minority and, women-led nonprofits and small businesses for Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans, with an investment of $10 million (since repaid). These funds helped 380 area nonprofits and businesses sustain more than 2,100 jobs across WNC.

  • Invested $1 million in the NC Rural Center Rapid Recovery Fund in partnership with Golden Leaf Foundation

Wear a Mask Campaign - Woman at the grocery store with as mask on
Wear a Mask Campaign - Elementary student with a mask on at school

Stories of

Courage and Compassion

Dogwood provided multiple PPE Grants to Hola Carolina to distribute masks, sanitizer, and other PPE to hotspot counties for the Hispanic and Latino communities. Hola also partnered with Dogwood and Blue Ridge Health to host COVID-19 testing events.

Asheville Buncombe Institute for Parity Achievement (ABIPA) used PPE grants from Dogwood to distribute masks, sanitizer, and other PPE to hotspot counties for the African American community.

PPE grants to BeLoved Asheville distributed masks & sanitizer to communities of color.

County “strike teams” coordinated responses to outbreaks in senior living facilities, minimizing the likelihood of further transmission and coordinating a multi-agency response. 


With an investment from Dogwood, Kitsbow Cycling Apparel in Old Fort was one of the first area companies to switch from regular production to mask production.

WNC Communities distributed thousands of pounds of food to help prevent hunger in the face of lost or reduced incomes during COVID-19.

When WNC’s first COVID-19 outbreak occurred in Brasstown, the health department used testing secured by Dogwood to conduct contact tracing and contain viral transmission in the community.


Hola Carolina

Through its flagship publication, Hola Carolina magazine, the organization shares critical information and news for Spanish-speaking communities in ten WNC counties. Hola also operates programs that celebrate cultural diversity with educational and outreach activities through Hola Community Arts.


Sanesco Health

A family-owned company headquartered in Arden, Sanesco has been providing lab services to roughly 900 physician practices and distributors across the United States and Canada for 15 years. “When we arrived to Asheville for the very first time, there was an immediate connection”