2021 CCME Foundation Impact Stories

Connect to Purpose - 2021 Grantee: EmmanuWheel

Sometimes we do not realize how much we take for granted by simply having the ability to walk down the steps, get into our cars, and drive to the hospital or the doctor’s office to receive medical care. For many living in poverty, this is a major barrier to accessing healthcare, and for the mobility impaired living in poverty, it is especially difficult for them and for the family members or friends trying to help them.

EmmanuWheel sets itself in Lexington, South Carolina and is the only organization in the state that strives to build one wheelchair ramp every week in the tri-county area of Lexington, Richland, and Saluda. In service to its mission and woven within its foundational Christian faith in practice, EmmanuWheel relies on volunteers and a small staff to fund, build, and provide wheelchair ramps for those who cannot afford them, with the intention of making a lasting improvement within their lives. Clients include those who are mobility impaired due to accidents, illness, or other degenerative diseases and are referred to EmmanuWheel through social service, hospitals, primary care offices, rehab facilities, churches, and other community organizations.

Operationally, the managing director, Chris Sharpe, is directly involved with the fifteen (15) ramp building teams and provides training and oversight directly on the sites. In addition, he works to forge relationships with other organizations to partner in building ramps and engages in mentoring volunteers with local schools and businesses.

Recently, CCME Foundation Executive Director Steven Martin visited a wheelchair ramp site in Lexington and was able to meet with Mr. Sharpe and Donna Groomes, EmmanuWheel’s Fundraising Director. In 2021, the CCME Foundation provided nominal grant funds for EmmanuWheel to purchase lumber for four ramps. Because construction costs have risen dramatically over the past two years and because of the tremendously impactful work the organization and its volunteers are doing, the CCME Foundation decided to award a second nominal grant in 2022-2023 to assist EmmanuWheel in building more ramps in service to those who need them.

To learn more about this small but tremendously impactful organization, visit their website at www.EmmanuWheel.org.

Connect to Purpose - 2021 Grantee: NC Harm Reduction Coalition

Harm Reduction is often a challenging concept for people to support because it may appear to encourage self-destructive behaviors and/or feed addictions that are proven to lead to negative health and societal outcomes. Oftentimes, those who exist within the Harm Reduction space are people from traumatized and marginalized communities, such as those suffering from substance use disorders, those who are incarcerated, sex workers, and folks dealing with gender identity issues. In 2018, the North Carolina Harm Reduction Coalition began providing services in Haywood County, a mostly rural part of the state, in response to the high number of fatal and non-fatal overdoses and the devastating effects of substance use disorder on its local population. In addition to the disparities in healthcare access, the Coalition seeks to bridge that gap by creating opportunities for those who often encounter barriers to services and help them enter into a continuum of care.

NC Harm Reduction Coalition seeks to treat everyone - regardless of their condition or circumstances - as dignified and respected human beings. The way in which the organization does this is by coming from a position that accepts that their clients are not going to stop using substances, and instead provides them with unconditional and nonjudgement support and services. The Coalition seeks to remove the stigma related to their clients’ circumstances and help them to reduce the harm to themselves through their programming, such as: direct services, education, training on overdose prevention, and the Linkage to Care program.

The CCME Foundation granted funds to the NC Harm Reduction Coalition in Haywood County for its Linkage to Care Program. According to Becca Goldstein, the Western Regional Coordinator, the Linkage to Care Program serves as a tool to assist clients in receiving connections to other basic resources they may need, such as affordable housing and/or emergency shelter, food, transportation, mental and medical health care, treatment for substance use, and other community-based services. The Program may be accessed through client direct contact, referrals, clients coming into the office, and through the Haywood County Detention Center. The CCME Foundation funds support a living wage for a full-time position to coordinate the program, educational brochures to supplement the Linkage to Care activities, and harm reduction kits, such as Naloxone, Fentanyl test strips, syringes, and medical supplies.

The COVID 19 Pandemic has placed several challenges on the practical implementation of the program due to the loss of many in-person opportunities; however, the staff and clients have managed to remain flexible in this ever-changing environment and find ways to navigate providing the necessary outreach, support, and services to affected communities in Haywood County.

For more information about the NC Harm Reduction Coalition, its history, and its work within the state, visit www.nchrc.org.

Connect to Purpose - 2021 Grantee: Greenville Free Medical Clinic

The Greenville Free Medical Clinic in Greenville, South Carolina was awarded grant funds in 2021 to hire a Chronic Care Navigator, who would implement use of the patient goal-setting tool SeMaS (Self Management Screening). In accordance with its mission to “promote wellness and to provide caring, quality primary medical care and dental services, health education and prescription medications without charge” to low income residents, the SeMaS tool will be used to assist to that end.

This tool includes an extensive survey that determines the impact of identified self-management barriers that are addressed in the clinic’s counseling for multiple chronic conditions. Unlike more obvious barriers to chronic illness management, like transportation, language, food insecurity, access, affordable housing, and education, this program looks to help resolve the more invisible barriers, such as culture, depression, anxiety, health literacy, coping skills, cognitive issues, and family support.

Based upon the results of the survey, patients will receive personalized consultations from the clinic’s care team in how to best support them in their care while helping them identify and navigate their own self-management barriers. With a more personalized process that includes setting goals and self care, the program aims to encourage patient buy-in to their own care in managing multiple chronic conditions.

To learn more about the amazing work of the Greenville Free Medical Clinic, visit www.greenvillefreeclinic.org.

Connect to Purpose - 2021 Grantee: Hunger and Health Coalition

Health and Hunger Coalition

Image credit: Jenn Bass, MPA

Tucked behind the crossroads of Routes 421 and 321 in Boone sits a small building of thriving, busy staff and volunteers working in support of the Hunger and Health Coalition’s mission and initiatives. According to nutritionist Maura McClain, “Here, food is medicine.” Celebrating their fortieth anniversary this year, the organization provides healthy food support, fresh produce, firewood, crib mattresses, backpacks for students, a no cost pharmacy, nutrition education, and mobile assistance to receive food or medicine for people in Boone and surrounding communities in Watauga County. Partnering with area grocery stores, local farms, bakeries, restaurants, donations, Appalachian State University, and food banks, the Coalition serves its healthy foods to residents every fourteen days through a food pantry, a fresh food pantry market, and a food recovery service.

While touring the facility with Executive Director Elizabeth Young, we were introduced to bustling workspaces full of diligent staff members and volunteers. Often with their heads down and hands going, they were sorting fruit and vegetables in the fresh food pantry, assembling food boxes, and shuttling them out the door to waiting cars and the Coalition’s vans; creating healthy individual meals for families with food donated by local restaurants, Appalachian State University Food Services, and bakeries; and preparing bags of much needed free medications in a packed pharmacy.

Observing in real time the organization’s work while in action on a typical day speaks volumes to the positive impact within Boone and the surrounding communities. Seeing how no one stopped working as to ensure perishable goods were pushed out the front door to those in need and how long the car line was for picking up bi-weekly food boxes and recovered meals was quite eye opening. It is a testament to the dedication and zeal within the Health and Hunger Coalition’s leadership, staff, and volunteer network that they are able to coordinate several moving pieces that must work together to feed vulnerable residents with delicious, fresh, and healthy food.

The CCME Foundation grant provided for the program expansion efforts of Mobile Food Assistance. According to grants manager Ben Loomis, the Coalition exceeded its targets for new household enrollments and volunteer recruitment early on in its grant year. The initiative was also fueled by a new partnership with High Country Community Health, a sliding-scale medical clinic offering a Migrant Farmworker Health program. Because many migrant workers cannot get access to food assistance due to language, transportation, and documentation barriers, the Mobile Food Assistance program has been able to spread to many Spanish speaking families through this partnership. During the Spring agricultural influx, they expect to serve even more families from this community.

In December 2021, the Health and Hunger Coalition was chosen as a participant in a pilot program for North Carolina’s Medicaid Transformation, which includes offering reimbursable non-medical services through Medicaid plans. Because of this pilot program, the Health and Hunger Coalition will provide Food and Nutrition Access Case Management services through its Nutrition Education staff. Support for Medicaid patients will include the Mobile Food Assistance program, and the Coalition will receive electronic health marker information through the pilot program and support from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. This public-private partnership through Medicaid will allow the Health and Hunger Coalition to expand their “food is medicine” efforts in Watauga County.

Connect to Purpose - 2021 Grantee: Smart Start of Transylvania County

Smart Start of Transylvania County rests in the small western North Carolina town of Brevard. A public-private partnership, falling under the nonprofit governance of the North Carolina Partnership for Children, Smart Start exists via state statute with the express purpose of providing every child with “a healthy start to life.” According to Executive Director Deb Tibbetts, in Transylvania County, the child poverty rate is 30% and ranks sixth in the state in childcare costs. The most recent statistics indicate that 50% of children are not ready for Kindergarten. In addition, the demographics of the county are challenging because it includes many small, rural communities with its own multi-generational family units and cultures. How to reach these families in support of their children remains one of its biggest hurdles.

Often community-based prekindergarten initiatives, including in Smart Start, focus and provide services for children ages three to five. This has led to an enormous gap in the earliest years of a child’s life – birth to two. The CCME Foundation grant funded the Family Connects program. According to Smart Start, Family Connects aims to improve “the health of families and thus communities by assessment of risk factors, providing access to care, dissemination of educational and health-related information, assessment of newborn & family safety, empowering individuals to make health decisions, promoting access to quality education, and lastly doing all of this in a preventative manner!” The program uses two part time nurses to conduct home visits to assist new mothers and their newborns and provides them with numerous community resources to help them through these earliest years. A new mother shared that the Family Connects nurse was “extremely knowledgeable” and that she appreciated the amount of time the nurse spent with her and all the questions she answered. She stated that Family Connects was "a Godsend" for her.

New mothers may find themselves on their own without much family or community support, especially in the area of breast feeding and lactation education. Jocelyn Turner Whitlock, the Community Alignment Specialist, implemented a questionnaire within the community to help determine what the greatest needs were following the birth of babies. Lactation support ranked first with 66% of respondents rating it as a challenge, and it was the number one request from new mothers. One mother stated, “all new moms need to know about it (Family Connects). I started asking all of these questions at the doctors. All new moms need you in their life. I would have made it but I don’t know if I would still be breastfeeding if it wasn’t for Family Connects.”

Other needs met within the community through Family Connects included connecting parents to health insurance coverage for their new babies, providing diapers and access to diapers as well as furniture, and connecting non-English speaking translators to assist in sharing information and resources. Family Connects assisted new mothers with nontraditional work hours in receiving the services and support they needed by finding alternate resources or special hours.

Early motherhood is often a lonely, daunting, and overwhelming time in a woman’s life. The COVID 19 Pandemic only added to this otherwise normally difficult experience. Because of the CCME Foundation grant, Family Connects was on pace to serve its first year goal of one hundred (100) families and plans to tune its program to provide a focus on lactation support, mental health, and nutrition heading into its second year.

Shelter Health Services Diabetes Program Improving and Saving Lives in NC

On the northwest side of Charlotte lies an unpretentious building one might think is nothing of significant importance. But look more closely and you will find a vital harbor and care center for homeless, disadvantaged women and children of Charlotte, who sometimes through no fault of their own, find themselves in need of basic necessities to include a roof over their head, personalized health care and access to that care.

Inside this shelter is imbedded Shelter Health Services, a free health clinic with a team dedicated to enriching the lives of people in need through health care assessment, treatment, monitoring, and educational lifestyle changes. This past year, the CCME Foundation partnered with Shelter Health Services to implement a Diabetes/Pre-Diabetes Program through the foundation's grant funding. In this program, enrollees entrust the SHS medical team and staff with personal medical assessment, treatment, monitoring, and guidance on lifestyle changes to make their lives healthier and self-sustaining.

Case in point, new SHS resident “Diane” was assessed at the clinic and found to have an A1C level putting her at risk for developing diabetes. She was placed into the SHS Prediabetic program. With no funds to buy the healthy food she needed, SHS provided Diane with pre-approved meals conducive to maintaining healthy eating. For the next four weeks, Diane diligently came to the SHS clinic to get her levels checked and receive diabetic food when the Shelter's resident meals were not in line with her dietary plan. Her medical team and SHS staff educated and encouraged her on the daily needs for exercise and proper nutritional habits. One month later, Diane's A1C level has dropped, and she states she is feeling much better. She is attending the SHS Dietician Education seminar and is learning to effectively managing her health and choices in food and lifestyle.

“This program allows us to be a resource in abating the onset of chronic diseases for those who lack access to affordable and compassionate health care,” said Iris Hubbard, executive director of Shelter Health Services. She thanks the CCME Foundation for funding the SHS Diabetes/Pre-Diabetes program. “Without these funds, we would not be in a position to fund food and medical supplies, educational speakers, and incentives to motivate residents toward better health.”

CCME President and CEO Steven Martin says case stories like Diane's and the SHS team demonstrate the meaningful purpose of the CCME Foundation's goal to improve the lives of people and communities. “We applaud the Shelter Health Service's team in making an impact toward healthier lives in the Charlotte community,” he said. “They demonstrate a true passion for saving lives.”

For more information about Shelter Health Services, visit https://www.shsclinic.org/.

Connect to Purpose - 2021 Grantee: The Open Door Clinic of Alamance County

The Open Door Clinic’s mission is “to offer free healthcare services with dignity, professionalism and concern for the indigent and uninsured residents of Alamance County.” The Clinic’s grant application proposed a project allowing the Clinic to hire a telehealth program coordinator who would implement a hybrid telehealth program for its patients. The funds would also purchase the equipment, giving the clinic staff and patients access to interpreter services and provider services by video, removing the language barrier and transportation problems that often disrupt patients’ ability to access needed specialty healthcare.

There have been various challenges posed by the COVID 19 Pandemic, impacting the ability of the program to get off the ground as planned. Open Door’s move into their new clinic space was delayed, and they had difficulty hiring the program coordinator due to Cone Health vaccine mandates. Despite the setbacks, Executive Director Lorrie Carter reported that a new CMA would begin with the telehealth program in April and that the equipment was ordered and would arrive soon. They are three months behind their original timeline, but the populations served by this clinic will no doubt find tremendous value in this innovative service. According to Ms. Carter, the Open Door Clinic is the only free clinic in North Carolina to have this technology.

While it may seem that the CCME Foundation’s grant has not yet had much of its intended impact, sometimes, the story is more than just about the project’s timelines, progress, and outcomes. Tracy Salisbury was the long-time dedicated and much beloved Executive Director of the Open Door Clinic for eleven years. After an out-of-nowhere breast cancer diagnosis in 2019, she was tragically taken from her two sons, family, friends, and the Alamance community in which she lived throughout her life in December 2020. Her unexpected death at age 50 devasted the Open Door Clinic staff, and her profound legacy and compassionate and caring presence is very much a part of the new clinic’s office space, clinical rooms, and beautiful pastel hallways. A whiteboard with a note of encouragement “Thanks to everyone for everything you do!” written to her staff remains etched in marker, her handwriting now a piece of artwork gracing the wall in for the organization that she had invested so much of her time, heart, energy, and talents. Lorrie Carter worked with Ms. Salisbury for twelve years, and her own strength and resilience to continue this necessary and meaningful operation is evident as she rose to the occasion to take the helm of the Clinic.

The first CCME Foundation grant application period opened in April 2021, and Ms. Carter was in the throes of being introduced to the seemingly endless and often unknown responsibilities that Ms. Salisbury had within her role as Executive Director. She was newly appointed by the Board and found herself treading water as she was learning the ropes while grieving her profound loss. The CCME Foundation grant was the first grant she had ever written, and after being awarded the funds for the telehealth program, she gained tremendous confidence in her own abilities to carry on what her good friend and long-time colleague started and expanded at the Clinic. While the CCME Foundation grants are awarded to “improve the health of individuals and communities,” sometimes, that award result includes helping the helpers themselves.

Connect to Purpose - 2021 Grantee: The Dementia Alliance of North Carolina

The Dementia Alliance of North Carolina established its Dementia Navigation Program as an effort to provide a team of allies and resources in support of families as they attempt to navigate the complicated and exhausting path of a dementia diagnosis within their loved ones. The team assists by helping to meet the needs and reduce the stress of caregivers as the disease progresses through resources, education, and a listening ear. While setting out to expand its services throughout the state, they began with listening tours in each county in how the organization can best serve the patients and caregivers dealing with dementia. Through relationship building in the smaller communities, the Navigator Program strives to be a trustworthy companion during some of the most devastating and challenging times for North Carolinians confronted with the arrival of a dementia diagnosis.

This grant application had several aggressive, measurable goals: delivering supportive services to six hundred people with dementia and their caregivers, increasing education and outreach efforts through events, post card mailings, and the prescription pads with information upon a dementia diagnosis; and improving the wellbeing of caregivers through knowledge and skills development. These are worthy endeavors and, so far, according to Executive Director Heather Hooper, have proven to be effective and innovative tools to reach the more rural and sparsely populated locations within the state where the internet, computer literacy, and dementia providers and resources are not guarantees, if there are any at all.

The CCME Foundation grant is the largest the organization has received, and the Board Chairman and staff appreciated the flexibility to use the funds in accordance with how the Dementia Alliance believed them to best serve its mission. They were able to hire a staff member, Rosalind Pugh-Scott, to administer the program across the state and hope to replicate the program into more counties.

Listening is perhaps one of the greatest skills that ultimately connect those who work in healthcare to their purpose. “Sometimes, the callers just need someone to listen with an empathetic ear and help them talk through it,” Ms. Pugh-Scott shared with us during our visit to the Dementia Alliance office.

“She listened to my story. She understood.”

“She calmed me and explained to me pointers to help me cope to be understanding what my Mom is going through.”

“I don’t get upset, because I apply what she told me.”

These are just a few responses from recipients of services provided by the Dementia Navigation Program, and they highlight the tremendous value of simply listening to the caregivers and family members who call for help during one of the worst and most desperate moments in their lives.

To learn more about the CCME Foundation, visit https://www.thecarolinascenter.org/foundation/.