RHI Legacy Foundation is a fund-raising and grant-making organization that is forming to serve the health and wellness needs of Rutherford County. The board of directors, formerly the Rutherford Hospital Foundation board, has been working for several months to study the health priorities of the county and to organize processes and procedures for their grant-making work in the future.

Jill Miracle, Executive Director of the new foundation explained, “When our planning committee studied the Community Health Assessment, it was apparent that RHI Legacy Foundation could make an immediate, positive impact by supplementing the existing Rutherford County School backpack program. Providing food for families fit well within our health and wellness mission and the school system already had a successful model in place.”

Janice Baynard, Director of Federal Programs & Professional Development at Rutherford County Schools offered statistics about the needs for food in the school system. “During 2014, Rutherford County School’s backpack program served 225 students each week throughout the system with food and financial contributions from the community. “Our schools are fortunate to have the support of community businesses, faith-based organizations and individual donations to support the backpack programs. Without the support of the community, it would be impossible to meet the needs of students.”

But there was a gap in what the community was providing and the need for backpacks that was established by the schools. RHI Legacy Foundation contacted Second Harvest Food Bank of Metrolina to discuss their capacity to serve 180 more children each week. The Food Bank’s only obstacle was funding to purchase the food, since there is no financial contribution to Second Harvest to specifically cover Rutherford County. The Food Bank’s contribution to Rutherford County was awarded from a 2014 child hunger budget and other private donations that were not restricted to a specific county.

“We were able to approve an early grant request for a little over $25,000 from Second Harvest to fill that gap. They will use those funds to provide food for the 180 additional students for the remainder of the school year”, Miracle explained. “Partnering with Second Harvest Food Bank of Metrolina and Rutherford County Schools for this grant is so exciting for us. We are structuring ourselves now to have a major impact on the health of our county. We were fortunate to be able to be able to help make an early difference while we are still a work in progress. “

In total, 405 backpacks are now being sent home with Rutherford County students each Friday. This is the second opportunity RHI Legacy Foundation has taken to join an organization that is doing health-related work in the community. Late last year, through an annual fundraising golf event, they were able to raise over $80,000 for Rutherford Outdoor Coalition to enhance the Thermal Belt Rails Trail system to increase opportunities for outdoor activity in the county.

RHI Legacy Foundation presented $1,001,012 at a “Healthy Connection” awards celebration on August 27, 2015.

Grants were awarded in six Health and Wellness categories. Listed below are the winning organizations and the purpose of their awards.
  • Health Care

    Our Health Care division includes institutions that preserve, treat, prevent or manage illness. The winners in this category are:

    • Cherry Mountain Fire Department – For automated external defibrillators and cardiac support pumps for vehicles.
    • Community Health Council of Rutherford County – For operating expenses for one year that will include an organized exchange of information for community leaders from all aspects of health, wellness and safety for our citizens.
    • Rutherford Polk McDowell Health District – For a Public Health Specialist to work with public health, health care and other community partners for the implementation of the Rutherford County’s Community Health Assessment and the Community Health Improvement Plan.
    • Nurse Family Partnership – To work with first-time mothers in poverty.
    • Town of Rutherfordton Fire and Rescue – For carbon monoxide detection and monitors to protect fire professionals.
    • Rutherford County Emergency Services – For a vehicle that will allow for quicker response in remote areas and to manage chronic illness for recently discharged patients.
  • Youth Services

    Our Youth Services division includes programs that engage and teach young people about healthy lifestyles, including nutrition, physical activity and proactive management of their own health. The winners in this category are: 

    • East Rutherford Big Red Booster Club –  For equipment for weight room and athletic training programs.
    • Grahamtown Team –  For a community gardening program for youth.
    • Isothermal Community College / The Performing Arts and Conference Center – For Kid Power – a theatrical presentation for third-grade elementary school students to add healthy knowledge, skills, attitudes, and behaviors. All students will attend free, including the cost of transporting the students from local schools.
    • Little League Baseball, Inc. Rutherfordton – For equipment to prevent injuries to catchers for over 30 little league teams.
    • North Carolina Cooperative Extension – For the Speedway to Healthy exhibit for all fourth grade students in Rutherford County.
    • Piedmont Council Boy Scouts of America – To purchase automated external defibrillators, medical equipment and supplies for 1400 acre Camp Bud Schiele – our Regional Boy Scout facility.
    • Pilot Club of Rutherford County – To engage “When Sean Speaks” – four compelling presentations to advise high school students about the tragic results of drinking and driving.
    • Safe Kids Rutherford County – For bike helmets for third grade students, infant car seats and heat-related death prevention, education about bullying and gang-related activities, Operation Medicine Drop and Safe Sitters training.
    • South Mountains Christian Youth Camp – For scholarships for disadvantaged Rutherford County children to attend summer camp.
    • United Way of Rutherford County – For DWI simulation goggles and educational materials to demonstrate the dangerous effects of alcohol. Media campaign focused on prevention of teen drinking and driving.
    • KidSenses Children’s InterACTIVE Museum – HealthWise, a new, permanent exhibit and activity center enabling children to conduct experiments about food and encouraging better nutrition in their diet.
  • Human Services

    Our Human Services division includes programs or facilities that strive to meet the basic needs of people living in our community. The winners in this category are:

    • Grace of God Rescue Mission – For site preparation for a new women’s shelter – Immediate, temporary shelter for women and children in need.
    • Rutherford Housing Partnership – Funds for urgent housing needs not available from volunteers, such as plumbing, heating, septic tank and well pump repairs.
    • United Way of Rutherford County – For community crisis fund to help with short term assistance for families in a sudden financial situation due to unemployment or medical crisis.
    • Yokefellow Service Center – Funds for medications to prevent critical medical consequences, utilities, rent, heating or air conditioning to prevent homelessness and unsafe living environments for disadvantaged clients.
    • Kistler’s Chapel United Methodist Church – For Eleanor’s Essentials, which provides personal hygiene items and cleaning supplies for a clean and healthy home.
  • Nutrition

    Our Nutrition division includes programs that support access to sufficient and healthy food for persons living in food insecure situations. The winners in this category are:

    • Basics Christian Ministries – For food and ministry operations for children and adults living in poverty in the southern part of Rutherford County (located in Cliffside).
    • Liberty Baptist Church Food Pantry – For fresh vegetables and dairy products for senior citizens on government assistance.
    • North Carolina Co-Operative Extension – For programs to promote healthy cooking and eating habits and improved physical activity. This fund will provide scholarships for persons unable to pay for the program.
    • Neighbors Pantry at Gilkey School – To purchase commercial coolers and freezers for safe food storage.
    • Rutherford County Schools – To purchase equipment for a pilot program to make breakfast more available to students. This is to encourage students to participate in National School Breakfast Programs.
    • Rutherford County Schools Education Foundation – To provide a Backpack Director to coordinate all school Backpack logistics, to grow community support of the Backpack program and to provide a consistent approach for all schools.
    • Rutherford County Senior Center – To provide home delivered meals for seniors currently on waiting list for support.
    • Second Harvest Food Bank of Metrolina – To provide supplies for 405 backpacks for county school children for the 2015-2016 school year. Another 400 are provided from local individuals, businesses and faith organizations. Additional support will come from our Annual Golf Classic, held in September, making the total gift nearly $100,000.
    • Washburn Community Outreach Center – For the Washburn community mobile food pantry, which is distributed monthly at South Mountains Christian camp.
    • Welcome Table Rutherfordton – For commercial appliances for food preparation for this weekly, multi-denominational meal program for children and adults.
  • Healthy Lifestyles

    Our Healthy Lifestyles division includes programs that promote and provide access to physical activity or discourage use of tobacco, drugs and alcohol in adults. The winners in this category are:

    • Rutherford Outdoor Coalition – To build a new website to provide information about the availability of local recreation options and for memberships, event registrations and newsletter supporting healthy lifestyles. Provide office support for an AmeriCorp Rutherford Trails Coordinator position.
    • Town of Forest City – To fund a topographical survey and engineering design for five plus miles of Thermal Belt Rail Trail, establishing the plan for a comprehensive city trails network.
    • Town of Rutherfordton – To continue building the Purple Martin Trail, extending walkways from Crestview Park to Kiwanis Park.
    • Town of Spindale – For the Spindale Parks and Recreation Department. They will use the funds to replace existing children’s playgrounds, in children’s playgrounds, including security equipment and to add bike racks and additional access points to the Thermal Belt Rail Trail.
    • Union Mills Learning Center – To complete gym renovations and purchase workout equipment for an open gym for the Union Mills area.
    • Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy – To expand the trail network in the Hickory Nut Gorge and Youngs Mountain Trail Park, including trailhead signage. This project is a part of the Lake Lure trail network.
  • Education

    Our Education division includes programs or initiatives that expand the number of professional health care providers in the community. The winners in this category are:

    • Isothermal Community College – To provide a clinical simulation mannequin with the capability to replicate hands-on acute-care settings. This is used in the Practical Nursing and Associate Degree students.