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Dogwood Health Trust Honored by Governor Cooper as 2023 North Carolina Afterschool Champion

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Photo Caption: (L to R) Michael Hayes, Founder and Executive Director, Umoja Health, Wellness and Justice Collective; CiCi Weston, Executive Director, Christine W. Avery Learning Center; Dr. Susan Mims, CEO of Dogwood Health Trust; Dr. Ereka Williams, Vice President – Education, Dogwood Health Trust; Stephen Blount, Community Investment Assistant, Dogwood Health Trust; Victoria Brownlee, Officer – Education, Dogwood Health Trust

Asheville –  Dogwood Health Trust has been selected as one of the North Carolina Center for Afterschool Programs’ 2023 Afterschool Champions, receiving the Afterschool Catalyst award. The award recognizes Dogwood’s remarkable contributions to the field of afterschool and out-of-school time (OST) programs. Dr. Susan Mims, CEO of Dogwood Health Trust., Dr. Ereka Williams, Vice President – Education at Dogwood, Victoria Brownlee, Officer – Education, and Stephen Blount, Community Investment Assistant were present to receive the award by Governor Roy Cooper, Senator Sydney Batch and Senator Jay Chaudhuri on October 26 during the Lights On Afterschool reception in Raleigh. Lights On Afterschool is an annual nationwide campaign celebrating afterschool programs and their important role in the lives of children, families and communities.

“It’s incredibly gratifying to have our team recognized for this work,” said Dr. Susan Mims, CEO of Dogwood Health Trust. “But, this recognition is really about the work our partners do every day to ensure that we have a supportive ecosystem for the children and families of Western North Carolina.”

“At Dogwood, we are deeply committed to high-quality evidence-based, aligned practices that support the entire ecosystem for a child, including home, school, and community,” said  Dr. Ereka Williams, Vice President – Education at Dogwood Health Trust. “We have to be concerned about who engages with our children in the out-of-school space and ensure they’re safe.” Williams goes on to say that whole children grow up in whole communities and contribute to the whole of society. “This is where we see our space as a partner, working alongside local, state and federal agencies to prop up communities in a positive way.”

To make OST experiences more accessible and meet the needs of the youth and families in its communities, Dogwood launched the WNC After 3 pm initiative. Dogwood partnered with the North Carolina Center for Afterschool Programs (NC CAP) to conduct a landscape analysis of the OST programs in the region. Eighty-three OST providers operating more than 134 different programs participated in an online survey examining the locations and characteristics of OST programs, as well as the strengths, challenges, and gaps in OST programs in Western North Carolina. Thirty providers participated in follow-up focus groups that explored in greater depth the challenges and opportunities facing OST providers and professionals. Dogwood then requested proposals from nonprofit organizations, government agencies, educational institutions and others who serve the Qualla Boundary and Dogwood’s 18-county service region in Western North Carolina and wanted to expand OST programming. The RFP closed in July and award notifications will be made in November with funds being distributed in December.

“We are so excited to be among the millions of Americans celebrating the importance and impact of Afterschool and expanded learning programs through this Lights On Afterschool event,” said NC CAP Director Elizabeth Anderson. “We are so proud of North Carolina’s afterschool programs and providers. The work they do is both joyful and challenging, and they change children’s lives every day by providing them with enrichment, support, and unique opportunities for identity development.”

Learn more about the annual National Lights on Afterschool campaign here.

About Dogwood Health Trust

Dogwood Health Trust is a private foundation based in Asheville, North Carolina with the sole purpose of dramatically improving the health and wellbeing of all people and communities of 18 counties and the Qualla Boundary in Western North Carolina. Dogwood Health Trust focuses on innovative and equitable ways to address the many factors that contribute to overall health and wellbeing, with a focus on housing, education, economic opportunity, and health and wellness. Dogwood Health Trust works to create a Western North Carolina where every generation can live, learn, earn and thrive, with dignity and opportunity for all, no exceptions. To learn more, please visit


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Health & Wellness | Goal 4

Increase Access to Behavioral Health and Substance Use Prevention and Treatment

Support programs and networks that reduce deaths, treat addiction, and prevent first use

Objective 4.1: Reduce opioid overdose mortality throughout the region

Objective 4.2: Reduce untreated behavioral health and substance use disorder in disproportionately affected communities

Objective 4.3: Prevent and reduce behavioral health issues and substance use (tobacco, alcohol, illicit and prescription drugs) in youth

Health & Wellness | Goal 3

Address Health Disparities

Help reduce disparities based on race, location, education and income factors

Objective 3.1: Improve health outcomes for women and infants in rural and low-income communities and communities of color

Objective 3.2: Reduce the prevalence of common chronic health diseases in disproportionately affected communities

Objective 3.3: Increase effectiveness of health care through delivery of culturally aligned services

Health & Wellness | Goal 2

Increase Access to Whole-Person Health Care

Invest in integrated heath care with seamless connections to supportive services

Objective 2.1: Increase the number of people with affordable health insurance coverage

Objective 2.2: Increase the available workforce for primary and allied health care services

Objective 2.3: Increase access to comprehensive and integrated care

Objective 2.4: Increase access to community-based services in low-income, elderly and rural communities

Health & Wellness | Goal 1

Support and Build Healthy Communities

Support communities that promote healthy living and resiliency and help mitigate the impact of trauma, isolation and stress on individuals and families, especially those experiencing poverty

Objective 1.1: Decrease adverse experiences (ACEs and traumatic violence) and improve individual and family resiliency

Objective 1.2: Increase access to community environments that promote healthy living and social connectedness across the age continuum

Economic Opportunity | Goal 4

Foster Entrepreneurship

Support a well-funded, sustainable, competitive entrepreneur and small business ecosystem throughout the region

Objective 4.1: Increase the number of Person of Color (POC)-led small businesses throughout the region

Objective 4.2: Increase the number of rural small businesses throughout the region

Economic Opportunity | Goal 3

Build Economic Ecosystems

Help build a regional economic ecosystem that supports increased creation/retention of jobs and business ownership

Objective 3.1: Improve access to higher-paying jobs throughout the region, targeting the lowest income populations

Objective 3.2: Increase and retain quality jobs

Objective 3.3: Stimulate economic growth, catalyzing businesses and revenue

Economic Opportunity | Goal 2

Promote Work Readiness

Help build a skilled workforce with the knowledge and technical abilities to excel in a wide range of industry employment opportunities that provide a competitive, sustainable wage

Objective 2.1: Close the educational attainment gap in WNC, staying on pace with regional and county-specific projections (myFutureNC 2030).

Economic Opportunity | Goal 1

Develop a Comprehensive Data Resource

Source, analyze and share a comprehensive, county-by-county data set that paints a full picture of work readiness, economic development and entrepreneurial needs and opportunities specific to Western North Carolina

Education | Goal 3

Support Higher Education Career Readiness

Work in tandem with Economic Opportunity Strategic Priority to invest in career readiness at the community college and university levels

Objective 4.1: Close the educational attainment gap in WNC, staying on pace with regional and county-specific projections (myFutureNC 2030).

Education | Goal 2

Improve K-12 Education

Support K-12 learning experiences with the resources and sustainability to provide an excellent academic and social-emotional education, so that all students graduate ready for college or career

Objective 2.1: Address teacher workforce challenges

Objective 2.2: Equip families of students to support academic growth and social-emotional health

Objective 2.3: Increase capacity of partners to provide supports and services, particularly for children facing challenges related to poverty, systemic racism, being differently abled or English language learners

Education | Goal 1

Improve Early Childhood Education Ecosystem

Invest in an improved early childhood education ecosystem with the resources and sustainability to provide developmentally appropriate, affordable and accessible education and care to support ages birth to five, so that all children in WNC enter kindergarten ready to learn

Objective: Address early childhood educator workforce challenges

Education | Goal 4

Develop a Comprehensive Landscape Study

Source, analyze and share a comprehensive set of publicly available data that provides a regularly updated, county-by-county picture of access, workforce and student outcomes in early childhood education and K-12 education specific to Western North Carolina

Housing | Goal 5

Use Impact Investments to Create Affordable and Workforce Housing

Loans, guarantees, and other financial tools to leverage funding opportunities

Housing | Goal 4

Create and Preserve Housing Units for Persons Below 50% of the Median Income

Increase affordable housing for lowest-income individuals and families

Objective 4.1: Create rental units for households below 50% of the median income

Objective 4.2: Help families pay no more than 30% of their income on housing

Objective 4.3: Create and preserve communities in a way that is representative of the WNC natural landscape

Housing | Goal 3

Create and Preserve Senior Housing

Support age-appropriate resources in affordable and workforce units, rental and owned

Objective 3.1: Create needed rental and homeownership opportunities for seniors

Objective 3.2: Incorporate supportive services in rental housing developments

Objective 3.3: Increase use of universal design in development

Housing | Goal 2

Create and Preserve Supportive Housing Rental Units

Invest in housing with sustainable supports for physical and mental health and wellbeing

Objective 2.1: Create new supportive housing

Objective 2.2: Preserve existing supportive housing

Objective 2.3: Leverage state and federal funds

Single story home in the midst of being build with 3 volunteers helping.

Housing | Goal 1

Support Healthy and Safe Revitalization Opportunities

Support healthy and safe revitalizations that work against displacement and gentrification, preserve home ownership and create generational wealth.

Objective 1.1: Revitalize Neighborhoods

Objective 1.2: Repurpose existing structures to minimize environmental impact

Objective 1.3: Support home ownership