125th Anniversary Grant Nominees

June 15, 2023

In celebration of the Asheville Chamber’s 125th anniversary, the Community Betterment Foundation (501(c)3 charitable arm of the Chamber) plans to award twelve grants to non-profits that support the Chamber in achieving its mission of “Building Community Through Business.” Our goal is twelve $10,000 grants funded by profit from the 125th Anniversary Celebration in September. 

One of the guiding principles of the Asheville Chamber is Collaboration. It’s one of the reasons why our tagline is “Together We’re More.” We recognize there is strength in numbers and work with strategic partners and member businesses to accomplish our goals. For our anniversary, we want to recognize non-profit organizations that support the Chamber’s strategies and work alongside us to build long-term economic vitality and viability, solving problems to move the community forward.

The public is invited to vote on finalists from June 15-July 31. VOTE HERE

About the Grant Finalists 

All Souls Counseling – Expanding Vital Mental Health Services for Underserved Populations in Asheville and Buncombe County

All Souls Counseling Center (ASCC) seeks funding to expand its counseling services for uninsured, underinsured, and underserved populations in Western North Carolina (WNC). The center offers individual, couples, family, and group counseling to address various mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, addiction recovery, and relationship challenges. The region has significant mental health needs, with nearly 30,000 uninsured individuals in Buncombe County alone. The COVID-19 pandemic has further exacerbated these issues, leading to increased rates of depression and anxiety. ASCC aims to increase the number of clients served by 25%, focusing on improving their Global Assessment of Functioning Scale scores and achieving high satisfaction rates. The organization actively addresses equity concerns by reaching out to underserved communities, increasing diversity within its team and board, and collaborating with partner organizations. The requested grant funding will support general operating expenses, enabling ASCC to provide counseling, education, and outreach initiatives to marginalized populations.

Asheville Museum of Science (AMOS) – STEM Connections to Career

The Asheville Museum of Science (AMOS) is seeking funding for its STEM Connections to Career initiative, which aims to support STEM career pathways for traditionally underrepresented students. AMOS plans to collaborate with community partners to promote STEM equity, access, and inclusion. The project involves coordinating industry leaders to visit classrooms, deliver presentations on their businesses, and engage students in project-based learning activities aligned with state curriculum standards. Additionally, the museum will develop interactive climate exhibits highlighting local industries’ efforts in combating climate change and protecting natural resources. The program targets middle and high school students in Buncombe County and Asheville City Schools, with commitments from industry partners such as ThermoFisher, GE, Pratt and Whitney, Vulcan, Land of Sky, and Blueridge Homebuilders Association. The project aims to increase students’ interest in STEM, expand their understanding of STEM careers, and enhance teacher resources. AMOS plans to evaluate the program’s impact using various metrics, including increased student interest in STEM and improved awareness of science-based industries. The proposed budget includes staff time, supplies, transportation, and exhibit materials. The initiative aligns with AMOS’s commitment to science equity and inclusion.

Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project (ASAP) – Building Community through Farmers Markets

The Building Community through Farmers Markets project, led by Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project (ASAP), aims to strengthen local food systems, support farmer’s markets, and enhance community well-being in Western North Carolina. The project includes the Double SNAP for Fruits and Vegetables (Double SNAP) program, which enables SNAP recipients to double their benefits at participating farmers’ markets. This initiative improves access to fresh food, supports local farmers and food entrepreneurs, and enhances the local economy. The project benefits over 100 area farmers markets, with nine needs currently offering the Double SNAP program in Buncombe County. It also focuses on increasing farmers’ market capacity, promoting long-term sustainability, and improving community health by encouraging more families to shop at farmers’ markets. The project addresses inequities in the food system by supporting historically underserved farmers and making farmers’ market spaces more accessible and inclusive. Funding from the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce and other sources supports the program’s implementation, including matching SNAP dollars, training for market managers, outreach activities, and program evaluation. The success of the Double SNAP program is evident through positive feedback from farmers, shoppers, and market managers.

Asheville GreenWorks – Developing the Next Generation of Urban Forest Stewards: GreenWorks Tree Keeper Training Program

Asheville GreenWorks’ Tree Keeper Training Program looks to engage marginalized youth in a workforce development program focused on the tree service industry. Participants will receive training and work alongside certified arborists on tree planting and maintenance projects in vulnerable Asheville communities affected by climate change. The project addresses youth unemployment by preparing young people from Black and Hispanic communities for high-income careers in arboriculture. The program will be implemented as a six-week internship starting in June 2024, with participants receiving a $15/hour stipend. The curriculum includes tree care, identification, pruning, inventories, climbing, and professional skills training. Mentoring from professional arborists and engagement with environmental leaders of color are also part of the program. The project aims to improve the urban forest in Asheville, making vulnerable communities more resilient to climate change impacts. The budget includes intern stipends, gear, supplies, staff salaries, transportation, and other project expenses. Asheville GreenWorks, founded in 1973, will oversee the program, leveraging its experience from previous initiatives.

Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity – Growing Habitat ReStore Revenues for Affordable Housing Programs

The “Growing Habitat ReStore Revenues for Affordable Housing Programs” project by Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity aims to expand ReStore initiatives and increase gross revenues by 6%. The project aims to generate $4 million for affordable housing programs, benefiting 95 low-income households in Buncombe County. The ReStores, operating for three decades, have funded the construction of 370 homes, diverted 2,500 tons of waste annually, and provided affordable merchandise for 136,000 shoppers. Asheville Habitat plans to invest in staff and partnerships to address Asheville’s affordable housing crisis, create living wage jobs, and offer volunteer opportunities. The project emphasizes equity, advocating for fair housing, diversity, and closing the wealth gap for vulnerable populations. With the grant, Asheville Habitat will hire a Donations Coordinator and expand the Deconstruction Program to complete more projects and increase revenues. The project aligns with Habitat’s Collaboration, Opportunity, Dignity, and Empowerment values and contributes to its vision of empowering 1,000 more families in Western North Carolina.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Western North Carolina (BBBSWNC) – Big Futures

Big Futures is a comprehensive program by Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) that hopes to ensure every high school student graduates with a plan for their future, becoming a contributing community member. The program includes one-on-one mentoring, group sessions, job readiness and preparation for high-demand jobs, college readiness programming, and a high school “Bigs” program that pairs high schoolers with elementary school students. BBBSWNC primarily serves at-risk youth in single-parent households who face barriers such as poor academic performance, high dropout rates, and learning gaps. The project plan involves funding a program coordinator, facilitating mentoring group sessions, providing career readiness materials, and arranging partnerships with businesses and organizations for educational and career opportunities. The goals include youth acquiring appropriate skills and participating in programming related to job skill development. The program emphasizes equity, addressing systemic racism, and providing cultural humility training to staff and mentors. The budget includes funding for the coordinator, travel, activities fees, and workshops. BBBSWNC, founded in 1982, has a mission to create and support mentoring relationships that empower youth.

Black Wall Street AVL – 10,000 Connections: Connecting our Region for Everyone to Thrive

Black Wall Street AVL aims to reduce economic disparities in Asheville through their project “10,000 Connections: Connecting our Region for Everyone to Thrive.” They plan to achieve this through cultivating relationships, connecting stakeholders, and collaborating on projects. The organization seeks to address the lack of Black businesses receiving contracts and the income gap between Black-owned and White-owned companies. They aim to hire an Entrepreneurial Navigator to connect entrepreneurs with necessary resources for business growth. They aim to have 1,000 businesses utilize the service and make 10,000 connections within a year. Black Wall Street AVL’s vision includes promoting equity, supporting BIPOC-owned businesses, empowering BIPOC youth, and engaging with local elders. They have a strong team and have received previous funding. The grant funding will go towards the Entrepreneurial Navigator position. Their efforts have resulted in significant sales and community impact, with recognition in Forbes magazine.

Blue Ridge Public Radio (BPR) – BPR Community and Inclusion Business Spotlight

Blue Ridge Public Radio (BPR) plans to launch the Community and Inclusion Business Spotlight project in collaboration with the Asheville Chamber of Commerce. The initiative aims to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion by giving voice and visibility to local makers and businesses involved in the People’s Community and Inclusion Initiative. Five BIPOC-owned companies will be selected to receive a spotlight package valued at $2,000, including exposure to BPR’s large audience through audio, visual, and narrative components. The project will also feature the businesses in BPR’s digital newsletters, e-news, and social media channels. By highlighting these businesses, BPR hopes to foster community partnerships, support BIPOC-owned enterprises, and further their commitment to diversity within public media. The project’s success will be measured through audience metrics, digital analytics, and listener feedback. The grant funds will be divided equally among the five recipient organizations. BPR is supported by the community it serves, with 90% of its funding coming from individual donations and business sponsors. BPR also receives a grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and is looking to grow its grants funding to further its mission to provide trusted, fact-based news and context that creates civil discourse and connection in WNC.

Buncombe County Schools Foundation – BCS TEACH: A Recruitment Plan and Retention Plan for Buncombe County Schools

BCS TEACH is a project by the Buncombe County Schools Foundation and Buncombe County Schools to recruit and retain quality teachers in Buncombe County, North Carolina. The project acknowledges the importance of dedicated professionals in schools for building a strong economy. The recruitment plan involves both internal and external strategies. External strategies include collaborating with lending institutions, realtors, and housing properties to provide affordable housing options for teachers. The internal approach focuses on the “Grow Your Own” campaign, assisting high school seniors interested in teaching careers and upskilling teacher assistants to obtain teaching degrees. The project also emphasizes the need for equity in staffing practices and aims to increase the representation of underrepresented populations in the teaching profession. The budget for the project is $10,000. The Buncombe County Schools Foundation, established in 1984, supports the school system with scholarships, grants, and additional funding for innovative programs.

Buncombe Partnership for Children – Supporting Child Care Centers With Outdoor Play Spaces & Gardens for High-Quality Care

The Buncombe Partnership for Children aims to support child care centers in creating outdoor play spaces and gardens to enhance the quality of care. The project addresses childcare providers’ challenges, such as teacher turnover and behavior issues related to the pandemic. By improving the built environment, the project seeks to strengthen self-regulation and social-emotional development in children, ultimately reducing challenging behavior. Technical assistance will be provided to ten identified childcare facilities, including architectural plans, licensing, permitting, and construction support. On-site training will focus on best practices for outdoor activities and gardening—the project partners with community organizations to leverage existing resources and collaborate on training opportunities. Using the NAP SACC pre-post assessment, the goal is to demonstrate improvements in outdoor learning environments and Farm to Preschool in 80% of the participating centers. The project emphasizes equity by engaging various childcare centers across Buncombe County. The budget includes grant funds, Smart Start funds, and private donations. The Buncombe Partnership for Children, established in 1995, is dedicated to strengthening early childhood development and learning through various programs and partnerships.

Eagle Market Streets Development Corporation (EMSDC) – Community Benefit Partner Program 

The Community Benefit Partner Program (CBP) by Eagle Market Streets Development Corporation, CDC (EMSDC), aims to promote economic vitality and capacity building by partnering with nonprofits. The program targets emergent and expanding nonprofits, focusing on Black Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC) and Women-owned businesses. With this grant, EMSDC plans to work with five CBP nonprofit partners to develop media kits to increase their visibility and revenue. EMSDC aims to expose small nonprofit business owners to the benefits of the Asheville Chamber, encouraging enrollment and participation in Chamber events. The ultimate goal is to position CBP businesses as anchor businesses in the Asheville-Buncombe Community and as Chamber members. Success will be measured by increased Chamber membership, proper use of media kits, participation in Chamber activities, and improved revenues and visibility. EMSDC emphasizes equity by investing in marginalized communities and BIPOC businesses. The total project budget is $23,367, with EMSDC dedicating 1/3 FTE for project administration.

Eblen Charities – Transportation Assistance for Western North Carolina Residents for Job Access

Eblen Charities aims to provide transportation assistance to low-income residents to improve job access and economic mobility. They offer gas vouchers ranging from $25 to $50 to help individuals attend job interviews and medical appointments and cover transportation costs until they receive their first paycheck. However, the need for affordable public transportation options in the area hinders many residents from accessing job opportunities. The organization plans to expand its transportation assistance program by collaborating with the Chamber of Commerce and creating an online portal for voucher requests. They previously received a medical transportation grant but had to use private funds for job seekers. With a $10,000 grant from the Chamber, they aim to serve an additional 200 job seekers, increase the voucher amounts to address rising gas prices and double their program budget to $20,000. Eblen Charities seeks to help individuals and their families improve their economic status and create a stronger community by providing equitable assistance.

FIRSTwnc – Abilities FIRST: A Microenterprise Coaching Program for Persons with Intellectual Disabilities 

FIRST is a coaching program designed by FIRSTwnc to support individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities (IDD) to create their own microenterprises or self-employment opportunities. The program aims to provide people with IDD the chance to have a meaningful vocation that improves their quality of life and fosters independence. The three components of the Abilities FIRST Microenterprise Coaching Program include creating a business plan, securing startup funding, and providing tools and resources for micro-enterprise owners. The program will offer up to $500 in startup costs for each participant and assist them in accessing additional funds and resources. Abilities FIRST will also facilitate community events and provide online platforms to connect and support the microenterprise owners. The project’s goals include: Supporting five microenterprise owners with IDD, collecting data on their progress and addressing any challenges or needs that arise. The program aims to promote equity by actively engaging persons of color, who comprise at least 20% of the business owners. The budget for the program includes expenses for the online platform, startup funds, mileage reimbursement, and community event support. FIRSTwnc, a resource center for persons with disabilities and their families in Western North Carolina, manages the project. It has a history of successfully working grants and providing support services in the disability community.

Green Built Alliance – Implementing The Renewable Energy Strategic Plan

Green Built Alliance’s proposed project aims to implement the Renewable Energy Strategic Plan in Buncombe County, North Carolina, to transition to 100% renewable energy by 2042 and create clean energy jobs. The plan promotes economic development, entrepreneurship, and non-traditional training and employment services, emphasizing collaboration and transparency. By accessing federal funds provided by the Inflation Reduction Act, the project seeks to incentivize the adoption of clean technologies and increase economic growth in the county. The plan includes activities such as education and outreach, Solarize campaigns, and job trainee recruitment, with a strong emphasis on equitable distribution of resources. The proposal demonstrates a commitment to equity by addressing energy efficiency for low-income households, providing training opportunities, and ensuring all community members access to renewable energy resources. The budget for the project includes leveraging funds from the Asheville Chamber and other existing supporters, aiming to bridge the gap in funding for implementation efforts. The Green Built Alliance, a local nonprofit founded in 2001, leads the project with expertise in renewable energy and sustainable building practices.

Mountain Area Health Education Center (MAHEC) – MAHEC Other Licensed or Certified Healthcare Practitioners to MA Pathway Program

The MA Pathway Program by Mountain Area Health Education Center (MAHEC) aims to address the decline in qualified Medical Assistants (MAs) in the Asheville area by offering a career pathway for other healthcare professionals. The program will provide 16 weeks of training and preparation for clinical work, leading to certification as Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA). The curriculum and certification testing will be provided by the National Healthcare Association (NHA). The program expects to improve retention rates, reduce turnover, and enhance job satisfaction. The goals include high completion rates, strong pass rates on the certification exam, and positive satisfaction survey scores. The program will also support recruitment efforts and improve retention by providing advancement opportunities for community members. The proposal emphasizes equity and inclusion, aiming to bridge healthcare disparities by offering underrepresented individuals scholarships, employment, and educational support. MAHEC, established in 1974, is committed to training healthcare professionals and has a strong track record in sponsored and pathway programs.

My Daddy Taught Me That (MDMT) -KL Training Solutions (KLTS) Job Training Program

KL Training Solutions (KLTS) Job Training Program from My Daddy Taught Me That (MDMT) is a project to increase employability and promote community sustainability for African American youth in Asheville. The program targets students who identify as Black and receive housing assistance. It focuses on providing internships, skill-building opportunities, and entrepreneurship training. KLTS aims to eliminate the disconnect between the black community and middle/upper-class Ashevillians by connecting students with local businesses and larger employers, fostering lasting partnerships. The program also includes workshops on college readiness, study skills, professional etiquette, and resume building. By centering on the priorities of the African American community, KLTS aims to address the challenges of poverty and lack of resources faced by the black population in a thriving city. MDTMT, the organization behind the program, is dedicated to positively influencing the well-being of youth in Buncombe County, providing a wide range of programs and services with a focus on mentorship and community engagement.

OnTrack Financial – It Takes a Village: Community, Collaboration, and Credit  

OnTrack Financial’s project “It Takes a Village: Community, Collaboration, and Credit” aims to provide credit and money management tools to support entrepreneurs starting and growing their businesses. The project recognizes that low-income individuals need help accessing capital due to a lack of savings and financial support. In collaboration with partner organizations, OnTrack plans to offer credit classes, credit awareness events, informal Q&A gatherings, and counseling sessions to empower entrepreneurs with the knowledge and skills necessary to build personal and business credit. The goal is to serve 100 entrepreneurs, and success will be measured by an 85% increase in knowledge and skills reported by clients. The project emphasizes equity, particularly addressing the racial wealth divide and exclusion of marginalized communities from credit opportunities. OnTrack has a history of working with organizations such as Black Wall Street AVL, AB Tech’s Small Business Center, and Mountain BizWorks to provide tailored education and counseling to entrepreneurs. The project budget will primarily cover personnel costs and credit reports. OnTrack is a financial education and counseling agency operating since 1973, helping individuals achieve their money and housing goals.

OpenDoors Asheville – To & Through College Access and Completion Initiative, College Director salary

OpenDoors is seeking funding for their To & Through College Access and Completion Initiative, specifically for the salary of their College Director. The project aims to reduce race-based opportunity and achievement gaps for low-income students of color. OpenDoors partners with schools and organizations to provide college preparation and support, including college enrollment assistance, financial aid guidance, and in-college resources. By helping students graduate on time with minimal debt, the project aims to improve economic outcomes for students and the community. OpenDoors measures success through high school graduation rates, college enrollment rates, and college graduation rates, as well as qualitative products such as student satisfaction and confidence. The project prioritizes equity and employs staff members who are former OpenDoors students or parents. The requested grant funds will cover the full-time salary of the College Director. OpenDoors, founded in 2009, works with kindergarten through graduate school students to eliminate opportunity and achievement gaps based on race.

SPARC Foundation – SPARCing Economic Equality

SPARC Foundation looks to address economic disparities and racial inequalities in western North Carolina by providing opportunities for marginalized individuals to achieve living wage employment and management positions in the hospitality industry. The project proposal, “SPARCing Economic Equality,” includes offering certification courses in ServSafe Food Safety Manager Class and Bartending & Alcohol Serving Class to low-income citizens of Asheville. The initiative targets people of color and those returning from incarceration who face barriers such as transportation, childcare, and educational costs. By overcoming these barriers, participants can access employment opportunities in the hospitality industry and improve their financial stability. The project has already seen positive outcomes, with 13 adults and 12 youth completing the course, leading to employment or wage increases. The program plans to expand its reach by coordinating with local businesses and securing additional funding for more participants. Equity is a core principle of SPARC, both in its services and within the organization, promoting diversity and equal opportunities. The budget includes costs for course coordination, participant fees, childcare, transportation, and staff time. SPARC Foundation, founded in 2016, aims to empower individuals and families through education, employment, and mentorship, focusing on reducing violence and supporting those in need.

United Way of Asheville and Buncombe County (UWABC) – UWABC’s Community Nights featuring Homework Diners

United Way of Asheville and Buncombe County (UWABC) is seeking this grant to support Community Nights at seven local schools. These Community Nights are part of UWABC’s Community School strategy and aim to improve youth success in education by addressing barriers and promoting academic achievement. The program offers free healthy meals to facilitate communication between schools and parents, provide homework support, encourage family bonding, and enhance students’ academic performance and confidence. The initiative is particularly crucial in Buncombe County, which faces disparities in graduation rates based on socioeconomic and racial backgrounds. The success of Community Nights relies on volunteers, with 88 volunteers needed each week. Local businesses and organizations are encouraged to participate as groups, bringing resources and opportunities to Community Nights. The ultimate goal is for all Asheville City and Buncombe County students to graduate from high school fully prepared by 2035.

Western Carolina Rescue Ministries – Equity Through Transitional Housing Program

The Equity Through Transitional Housing Program, initiated by Western Carolina Rescue Ministries, aims to address the housing crisis and employee shortage in Asheville, North Carolina. The program provides affordable transitional housing to graduates of the organization’s recovery programs, allowing them to live in a safe and structured community close to work. With Asheville being the most expensive place to rent in North Carolina, many clients face the choice of unsafe housing or returning to potentially toxic family environments, leading to relapse and job loss. The program includes job training, education partnerships, and resources like substance abuse counseling and career navigation. The program’s goals include reducing relapses, increasing career retention, and promoting mental health and resiliency. The budget for the project is $650,000, with $400,000 already raised. The Rescue Ministry collaborates with various partners and tracks progress through data collection.

Working Wheels – Affordable Vehicles and Vehicle Repairs for Working Families

Working Wheels’ project focused on providing affordable vehicles and vehicle repairs to working families in Asheville. They recognize the importance of reliable transportation in accessing job opportunities, medical appointments and improving quality of life. The project consists of two programs: the Vehicle Purchase Program, where donated cars are repaired and sold to working families for $610, and the Vehicle Repair Program, which offers affordable repairs to individuals who cannot afford to fix their vehicles. The goal is to serve 175 program participants in 2023 and 225 in 2024. Working Wheels collaborates with local organizations and referral partners to identify eligible participants. The project has shown positive results, with participants reporting increases in income, improved housing, better access to medical appointments, and an enhanced quality of life. They aim to advance racial equity and involve program participants in decision-making processes. The project relies on funding from various sources, including grants and donations.

YMCA of Western North Carolina – Project Aspire

Project Aspire is a collaborative initiative between the YMCA of Western North Carolina and the First Baptist Church of Asheville. They aim to create a walkable urban village that addresses community needs, including affordable housing, early childhood education, a new YMCA facility, a business incubation space, healthy food distribution, and more. The development will occur in two phases over the next decade, potentially starting in late 2024. The project emphasizes preserving Asheville’s architectural heritage while incorporating modern amenities. Collaboration with the City of Asheville, Buncombe County, and other organizations ensures alignment with community goals. Funding will come from private investment, community fundraising, philanthropy, public/private partnerships, grants, and tax credits. Community input is valued and ongoing.

YWCA of Asheville – Empowerment Child Care (ECC)

The Empowerment Child Care (ECC) program, initiated by the YWCA of Asheville, addresses the critical need for accessible and affordable childcare in North Carolina. With the high cost of childcare and the significant shortage of childcare workers, ECC offers up to 12 hours of free childcare per week to families seeking employment, education, or social services. ECC not only serves as temporary care during transitions but has become a vital resource for families unable to find full-time or consistent care. The program aims to support families in achieving financial and economic stability, leading to increased economic growth and improved well-being. ECC collaborates with partner agencies and provides children with case management support, nutritious meals, and socio-emotional learning opportunities. To ensure the program’s success, ECC focuses on equitable wages, professional development, and representation among its staff. Funding from various sources, including grants and donations, supports the program’s operations. The YWCA of Asheville is committed to equity, serving low-income families and underserved populations through its programs.