A message from our President

Dear Rural Partners,

The rapid pace of change continued to be a central theme again this year as the world opened back up and people were eager to find a new post-pandemic sense of normalcy. This same sentiment was reflected at the North Carolina Rural Center as we returned to rural communities more often and looked for ways to connect more intentionally with our partners.

We stayed busy and covered a lot of ground in every facet of our work. 

Plus, we had the opportunity to celebrate a few milestones.

  • Our small business lending arm Thread Capital celebrated its fifth anniversary. In that time, Thread has helped hundreds of small businesses in North Carolina by making more than 1,600 loans totaling more than $84 million. Thread, along with CornerSquare Community Capital and our State Small Business Credit Initiative, is continuing the legacy of micro-lending that started at the Rural Center more than 30 years ago and we’re pleased they are all doing well.
  • Our Faith in Rural Communities program also turned five this year. Thanks to The Duke Endowment and other supporters, by the end of the fiscal year our team had worked with nearly 450 people at 55 rural churches to build out faith-based projects that serve their communities in ways they never thought possible. We were able to distribute almost $400,000 in grants to help them in addition to our training and mentoring. Congratulations to our team, our funders and, most importantly, our partner churches for what they’ve accomplished. In this new fiscal year, a $1.25 million grant from the Lilly Endowment to serve 40 rural churches of color in addition to our already planned work will keep this program strong and growing.
  • Lastly, I want to recognize our regional leadership training program – Homegrown Leaders. Homegrown Leaders has now served every county in the state after a successful class in central North Carolina this spring. Homegrown Leaders now has 352 graduates representing all 100 counties of North Carolina and continues to expand its reach.

We had other causes for celebration as well.

  • After a decade of lobbying by countless advocates including those of us at the Rural Center, Medicaid expansion was signed into law in 2023. This may be the state’s greatest economic achievement in a decade. Hundreds of thousands of people – many of them in rural North Carolina – will get health care coverage and more money will flow to struggling rural hospitals. Already, more than 300,000 people have enrolled for this new coverage.
  • Our Collaborative Broadband Initiative extended to 18 counties and the Qualla Boundary in the western part of the state thanks to a generous grant from The Dogwood Health Trust. We are wrapping up our work in Northeastern North Carolina over the next few months and then will focus exclusively on this new region.
  • We released what we believe to be a critical report for the Rural Center entitled Forces Driving Change in Rural North Carolina. This data-driven report identifies major forces driving change for rural communities in our state. The report’s findings were at the center of the 2023 annual Rural Summit and the focus of our Summer Road Trip to 12 rural communities. We’ll be sharing more about what we heard at the 2024 Rural Summit. 

Speaking of the Rural Summit, we had record attendance of roughly 630 people at this year’s Rural Summit. More than 300 people attended our Summer Road Trip stops. 

Our Rural Center board of directors met in Morganton for our first board meeting actually held in a rural region of the state. It’s a new tradition we have continued in this new year with a visit to Wilson, and on to Cherokee in 2024.

As I said in the beginning, people have been eager to re-engage and so are we. We have been seeing old friends and making new ones this year and it has been rewarding and encouraging.

We’ve also made sure we continue to examine our internal operations.

We reopened our building in January 2023 for external meetings after closing down in March 2020 for the pandemic and then renovations and upgrades. It’s good to be able to offer this meeting space again to our community.

We’ve also added some critical positions to our staff, including a chief operating officer and a compliance/internal audit officer. They are helping us shape our staff for this next phase in the history of the Rural Center, develop better procedures and systems, and make sure we maintain the highest level of fiscal integrity.

The Rural Center completed a deep, comprehensive strategic planning process in 2023 that set a course for us through 2026. This plan will guide us on the journey ahead. We appreciate everyone who played a part in this effort.

None of this would be possible without all of our community, organizational, governmental, and philanthropic partners. You are the reason we do what we do, and we could not support rural North Carolinians without your trust in us, your collaboration, your belief in our mission, and your optimism about the future of our state’s rural people and places. Thank you for your interest and investment in our work.

In partnership,

Patrick Woodie
President & CEO, NC Rural Center

Your support makes a huge impact!