Alumni Newsletter - Fall Issue 2020
Building on Higher Ground: Community Resilience Strategies for Storms to Come
With the support of the American Red Cross, and in partnership with the North Carolina Office of Recovery and Resiliency, the NC Rural Center is excited to announce an introductory series of four FREE webinars during the month of October on community resilience. 
Participating rural leaders will learn: 

  • Key concepts that distinguish resilience strategies from natural disaster recovery practices.
  • The climatic and economic conditions that make adaptation of resilience strategies so critical.
  • Practical resilience strategies communities can adopt.
  • Principles and practices for inclusionary planning.
  • Strategies to address the ongoing needs of rural leaders so they too can be as resilient as their communities. 

We encourage you to participate in all four of these 75-minute sessions, if possible. Each session will conclude with Q&A with presenters. Questions we are unable to address will be collected and responded to in a Q&A document that will be shared with participants.
Announcing - Homegrown Leaders East
The NC Rural Center is excited to announce that we are hosting a series of Homegrown Leaders regional economic and leadership development trainings across eastern North Carolina over the next two years.

The first training in this series is November 18-20, 2020 from 9 a.m. - 1 p.m. and will be held virtually. The training is designed to reach a broad base of existing and emerging community leaders from across a variety of sectors, including healthcare, education, government, nonprofit, faith communities, small business leaders and entrepreneurs, economic development professions, and other community-minded people.

Participants for the November 18-20 training must live or work in one of the following counties: Edgecombe, Halifax, Hertford, Martin, Nash, Northampton, and Wilson counties.

If you know of an existing or emerging leader who lives or works in one of the eligible counties, please forward this announcement and application link to them.

Application Deadline: October 9, 2020

For additional information about our Homegrown Leaders training program, click here.
Rural Center Announces New Loan Subsidiary
In partnership with Truist, the bank that emerged from the BB&T and SunTrust merger, the NC Rural Center has launched a new subsidiary: CornerSquare Community Capital

With an initial investment of $40 million from Truist, CornerSquare Community Capital will purchase a participation in loans originated by CDFIs, organizations which have been undercapitalized for decades and lend primarily to women- and minority-owned businesses, and low-to-moderate income individuals and communities. CornerSquare will focus on CDFIs located in Truist’s region of operations—meaning that not only will CornerSquare invest in CDFIs in North Carolina, but in 17 states and the District of Columbia.

Click here to read more about the exciting news.

Alumni Spotlight - Sarah Thompson (REDI 2015)
Having relocated to North Carolina after college, Sarah Thompson has worked tirelessly to improve the southwestern corner of the state she calls home. Thompson currently serves as the executive director of the Southwestern Commission Council of Governments in Sylva, North Carolina. In this role, she administers programs in the state's seven far-most western counties related to community and economic development, workforce development, and aging services. In addition to her role with the Southwestern Commission COG, Sarah also volunteers her time as a dedicated board member for the Dogwood Health Trust, the NC Rural Center, and as the current Chair of Thread Capital.

Q: What is your personal and professional connection to rural NC?
A: I moved to Western North Carolina in 1994 to work at the Nantahala Outdoor Center. I fell in love with the mountains and ended up settling and starting a family in Sylva, where I remain today. After serving my community as a volunteer and on the Sylva Town Board, I went back to school for a master's degree in public administration at Western Carolina University. I started working at the Southwestern Commission as an intern 10 years ago, and am now the Executive Director.
Q: As an NC Rural Center Leadership alumnae and someone who has evolved to become a critical leader in your region, what skills, tools, and lessons from REDI do you draw upon?
A: REDI helped me see that all of the issues and community dynamics that exist in my rural community exist in some form or fashion in every rural community across the state. The specific details and stakeholders are unique, but there are common themes throughout. Working with other rural leaders helps us gain a broader perspective, learn about possible solutions we may not have thought of, share resources, learn and advocate together, and achieve success that can be shared across the state.
Q: Or What advice do you have for emerging leaders who are in the early stages of their own personal leadership development?
A: Put yourself out there! Your community wants you to lead.

Q: What is your greatest accomplishment in rural economic development?
A: Gaining the trust of the elected leadership in the southwest to serve as the executive director of their Council of Government has been an honor. I share that trust with the staff of my organization, and together we work diligently with each other and our regional and statewide partners to help our region grow and evolve in a thoughtful, efficient, and well-planned manner. It’s really gratifying work!

Q: What is your vision for your region over the next five years?
A: The COVID-19 pandemic brought our lack of decent last mile broadband to the top of every sector’s list of community priorities. This is the tipping point from which we will finally see some significant action on this issue. Over the next five years the region’s economy, healthcare, and educational systems will greatly evolve as a result of improved connectivity.
Q: What is the best hidden gem in Southwestern North Carolina?
A: Our small towns are charming, authentic, full of local food and art, and a short distance from world class outdoor recreation opportunities.
REDI Alumni Named 2020 'Trailblazers'
Each year, Business North Carolina recognizes a small cohort of entrepreneurs, community developers, leaders, and change makers with their annual 'Trailblazers in North Carolina' list. This list includes professionals under the age of 40 who work in N.C. cities and towns that have fewer than 100,000 residents. Business North Carolina, acknowledges these 2020 Trailblazers as having a significant impact in sustaining their communities.

This year's list features two graduates of the Rural Economic Development Institute (REDI); Weyling White (REDI 2015), and Matt Raker (REDI 2010).

Congrats to them both for all of their hard work and dedication to their communities!

Photo: (Top) Weyling White, (Bottom) Matt Raker
ncIMPACT Features Misty Herget (REDI 2007)
UNC-TV's ncIMPACT examines issues around our state including education, jobs, healthcare, and others. Host Anita Brown-Graham and her team from the UNC School of Government bring the listening, learning, and leading that create conversations - going into the communities that are tackling these problems head on.

The third season of ncImpact premiered on September 17th, and has featured episodes on elder abuse, food systems, and PPE manufacturing. Their most recent episode features the Rural Center's own, Misty Herget, as she and other leaders across the state discuss the importance of collaboration and flexibility in the face of adversity.

Three REDI Alumni Named to LNC's 28th Class
Since 1995, Leadership North Carolina has chosen a class of established and emerging leaders from across the state to participate in its acclaimed program.

This year, LNC’s 28th Class is made up of top leaders from the government, business, nonprofit, and education sectors.

Join us in congratulating to the following alumni on this honor:

  • Randolph Keaton, Men and Women United for Youth & Families, CDC, (REDI 2014)
  • Katherine Parker, Communication Specialist, Hometown Strong, (REDI 2016)
  • Jonathan Russell, City of Washington, (REDI 2015)

Alumni in the News
Rural Matters (Podcast)

Featuring Heather Kilbourne (REDI 2017)
WRAL Teach Wire

Featuring Sara Nichols (HGL - Asheville),
Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust

Featuring Randolph Keaton (REDI 2014)
Partner Resources & Funding Opportunities
ARC: Appalachia Nonprofit Resource Center - Deadline October 9th
Southwestern Commission Funders Forum - October 27
2020 Outdoor Economy Conference - every Thur. in October (1-29)
Z. Smith Reynolds - Community Progress Grant
Dogwood Health Trust: Racial Equity Community Building Grants - deadline October 23th
NC Historically Underutilized Businesses (HUB) - RETOOLNC Business Grant
Reminder: Census 2020
Update: Last week a federal court overruled the Department of Commerce's September 30, 2020 deadline for census responses. This ruling has granted census enumerators and individual households the ability to continue collecting census responses through October 31, 2020.

With this deadline rapidly approaching, we are urging YOU, our advocates and partners, to spread the word about the importance of the 2020 census. Complete your census form and encourage others to do the same.

Together we must ensure #RuralCounts
How to Respond to the Census

Online: The 2020 Census is the first time that households can complete the census online. You can complete the census online using a laptop, tablet, or smartphone.

By Phone: You can also complete the census questionnaire by calling (844) 330-2020. (Customer Service Representatives are available every day from 7 a.m. to 2 a.m. Eastern Time.)
If you have an upcoming event, noteworthy news, or other information that you would like to share with your leadership alumni network please contact Miles Kirksey, engagement coordinator, at or 919.250.4314