Bertie gains second grant

Published 11:08 am Monday, June 19, 2017

WINDSOR – With support from the Kate B, Reynolds Charitable Trust, a pair of Bertie County organizations are working to improve the health of the community by increasing recreational opportunities, including expanding services offered.

Earlier, the Blue Jay Recreation Park in the Indian Woods community was awarded a $150,000 grant from the Reynolds Trust for construction of a paved walking trail and other facility improvements.

The Bertie County Board of Commissioners announced that award at its May 15 meeting, which was held at the Blue Jay Volunteer Fire Department.

The Blue Jay grant will make possible several notable upgrades, and include the addition of a paved walking trail, covered picnic shelter, and other improvements expected for the Indian Woods Community located near NC Highway 11 in western Bertie County.

“Indian Woods Park has been around but it never really took off. By breathing new life into the park, we are providing a safe place where the community can gather, exercise or just play,” said County Commissioners chairman John Trent. “Right now, people in this part of the county don’t have access to such a place. Organizations and individuals across Bertie County are working hard to improve the health of our neighbors, which is changing lives and bringing economic development to our community. There is no doubt that all of these organizations working together will make Bertie a better, healthier community.”

The funding is a part of a series of grants awarded by the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust to organizations across the state. Selected projects are driven by the community’s concerns, and the Trust works in partnership with residents toward sustainable, long-term change.

Last week brought word of a Reynolds Trust award to the Windsor-Bertie County YMCA; another part of the Trust’s long-term commitment to improving the health of residents in the state’s most rural and under-resourced counties.

The YMCA will receive $363,000 to expand youth recreational opportunities in the county. The YMCA plans to update equipment and hire additional staff to operate recreational and youth development programs in underserved parts of the community. The new staff will recruit volunteers, staff recreational facilities from open to close, and spearhead substance use and violence education and prevention efforts.

“The YMCA is showing tremendous leadership as they work to expand recreation opportunities throughout the county,” said Adam Linker, program officer at the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust. “We’re excited about the momentum in Bertie County and the partnership between the YMCA, the Hive House, Blue Jay Park and the county to engage youth in new ways.”

The YMCA will also work closely with other community organizations, such as the Hive House and the school system, to create satellite sites for youth engagement.

“When I heard about the grant I cried like a baby because we are changing both culture and lives,” said Casey Owens, executive director of the Bertie YMCA. “There used to be no free play anywhere in the county, but we’re changing that.”

“On the surface, it may look like we are just opening up gyms for kids to play, but it are so much more than that,” Owens continued. “We are encouraging an entire community to live better lives. We are teaching them a healthy lifestyle and at the same time giving them a safe place to play. And that’s not all; we are also providing needed job opportunities for this community.”

Another opportunity the grant will provide for Owens is the expansion of his staff.

“This will create more job opportunities,” Owens said. “Some of our part-time employees can now work full-time which will lighten my workload with summer camps, winter camps, marketing, etc. This gives us some firepower.”

While the majority of the grant is operational, Owens says the YMCA’s goal is still to promote a healthy living lifestyle; this fits with the Trust’s Health Care Division.

“Living a healthier life is about more than just access to health care,” said Laura Gerald, president of the Reynolds Trust. A major piece of the Trust’s work is looking at factors beyond the hospital walls that impact a person’s well-being. Supporting active living is just one piece of our mission to ensure equitable access to quality health care, economic opportunities and educational attainment in the communities we serve.”

“These projects will provide residents across the county with the ability to get out and be active,” Gerald added. “We are impressed by the tremendous energy we see in the community and are excited to be a part of Bertie County’s journey toward better health.”

The Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust, established in 1947, is now one of the largest private trusts in North Carolina with a mission is to improve the quality of life and quality of health for the financially needy of North Carolina through its Poor and Needy and Health Care Divisions.