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Dogwood Health Trust Provides More Than $8.3 Million in Grants to Address Early Childhood Educator Workforce Challenges

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Asheville, N.C. – Dogwood Health Trust recently awarded more than $8.3 million in grants to support organizations in sustaining and improving the conditions surrounding the Early Childhood Education (ECE) workforce. The grants were made to 10 nonprofit organizations and educational institutions across the region whose projects seek to increase access to existing ECE credentials, attract new or career-changing adults into the ECE profession and improve working conditions for the existing ECE workforce.

Grants were made in response to a request for proposals (RFP) announced by Dogwood in July. The RFP sought proposals from non-profit organizations, government agencies, education institutions and others that serve the 18 counties and Qualla Boundary of Western North Carolina and who were interested in stabilizing and growing the local ECE workforce to better support students in reaching success.

“The quality of proposals to address early childhood educator workforce challenges speaks to the deep understanding and innovative solutions that exist among our grantee partners,” said Dr. Ereka Williams, Vice President – Education at Dogwood Health Trust. “I look forward to seeing the long-term impacts and transformational change in the ECE workforce as a result of these initiatives.”

“Investing in the workforce behind the workforce – our Early Childhood Educators – is a win for everyone,” said Dr. Susan Mims, CEO for Dogwood Health Trust. “Our children, working families, employers and educators all benefit, resulting in a stronger, healthier and more economically viable region for Western North Carolina.”

Grants awarded include:

  • Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College Foundation received $510,932 to support Project Blazing Trails: Early Childhood Collegiate Support. The focus of the project is to expand the current program by employing two early childhood education faculty to serve a cohort of at least 60 participants during the duration of the project.
  • Blue Ridge Community College Education Foundation received $1,000,000 over a five-year period to support the College’s ECE recruiting and success initiative. Funds will support the addition of two ECE recruiting and success coaches, additional adjunct faculty, professional development and Spanish translation of courses and teaching materials.
  • Children & Family Resource Center of Henderson County received $1,000,000 over a five-year period to support workforce development in Buncombe, Henderson, Madison and Transylvania counties. Working in partnership with Buncombe County Partnership for Children, funds will be used to recruit and train individuals to become early childhood educator substitutes, which are in incredibly high demand.
  • McDowell Technical Community College (MTCC) received $985,000 to support its project, A Model Community College Childcare Center: Developing a Playbook to Create More Equitable Workforce Solutions for Early Childcare. By partnering with Centro Unido Latino Americano (CULA) to employ a Latinx workforce coordinator, MTCC plans to triple the number of students of color in their ECE program.  
  • Mountain Projects received $649,286 to support Head Start Workforce, which is responding to current ECE needs as well as the changing demographics of the families it services. Increasing wages and offering education incentives will help retain current ECE staff and recruit new professionals.
  • Southwestern Child Development received $1,000,000 to support Pathways to Early Learning which builds upon and advocates for an increase in teacher education leadership through scholarships and apprentice programs, supports bi-lingual and staff of color to attain credentials, including higher education and ensures racial equity training is required as part of coursework and ongoing professional development.
  • The Enola Group received $617,697 to support the project, The Three Rs: Recruitment, Retention, and Reinforcement of Early Childhood Education. Working in partnership with Western Piedmont Community College, the project will recruit students into the ECE profession by providing them paid on-the-job experiences and retain current ECE teachers by providing them with professional learning opportunities to improve work conditions.
  • Verner received $748,497 to support the Center for Resilient Educators & Families which will offer interventions to support ECE teacher mental health, in the form of group therapy services, to ECE center-based teachers and family childcare providers.
  • WNC Source, formerly known as Western Carolina Community Action, received $987,914 over five years to support Building Blocks for the ECE Workforce. The goal of this project is to increase access to jobs in the ECE profession for individuals who are primarily Black, Indigenous or People of Color (BIPOC), first-generation students, and/or live in rural communities by providing training, support and career advancement opportunities.
  • Western Carolina University received $868,885 to support LEAF in ECE: Leadership, Equity, and Access Fellowship in Early Childhood Education. The project will increase the number of classrooms in the region, which are led by LEAF fellows by offering an accelerated licensure program.

Dogwood recently announced the availability of a comprehensive ECE landscape study in October 2022. WNC Early Care and Education Landscape, conducted by North Carolina-based child care services leader and advocate, Child Care Services Association focused on both the early childhood education ecosystem, as well as a review of the T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood Scholarship program and its impact on the ECE workforce in Western North Carolina.

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