Paula Benson Selected as Future Director of Healthcare Foundation of Wilson
Paula Benson Selected as Future Director of Healthcare Foundation of Wilson
Following a national executive search, Healthcare Foundation of Wilson has selected Paula Benson as its future director. Benson, who has announced she is leaving her role as executive director of Wilson Forward, will begin her new position in January 2024 following the retirement of Healthcare Foundation of Wilson Executive Director Denise O’Hara, who has led the foundation since its inception in 2014.
Benson has served in numerous leadership roles for organizations in Wilson, including serving as a board member of Healthcare Foundation of Wilson, and she has worked with local, regional and statewide partners on issues and opportunities in education, workforce development, health and wellness.
Prior to her role at Wilson Forward, Benson worked at SAS Institute and Ernst & Young, where she began her career as a certified public accountant. Benson earned her bachelor’s degrees in business administration and economics at Meredith College.
Healthcare Foundation of Wilson has invested more than $57 million in the Wilson community with a steadfast focus on providing responsive and strategic funding for projects that meet current needs and provide promising, sustainable solutions to improve the health and well-being of Wilson County residents.
“Wilson is my home, and I am excited to be the next leader of an organization that has already made a tremendous impact and transformed our community’s response to some of the most significant opportunities and challenges,” said Paula Benson future director of Healthcare Foundation of Wilson. “It will be a privilege to serve an organization that is dedicated to making Wilson an even better place while honoring many generations of individuals dedicated to the well-being of our community.”
Denise O’Hara Announces Retirement
After nearly a decade as the Executive Director of Healthcare Foundation of Wilson, Denise O’Hara plans to retire at the end of 2023.
O’Hara has led the foundation since its inception in 2014. Working with the founding board members, she charted a path for strategic and responsive grantmaking to support initiatives that address the top health concerns in the greater Wilson community.
Under her leadership, more than $57 million has been invested in the Wilson community with a steadfast focus on funding projects that meet current needs and provide promising, sustainable solutions to improve the health and well-being of Wilson County residents.
Following a national executive search, the board is selecting the candidate to lead the foundation. In the coming months, the future director will participate in strategic planning activities as Healthcare Foundation of Wilson explores future opportunities to invest in our community.
Healthcare Foundation of Wilson Announces 13 Grant Awards
WILSON, N.C. (June 29, 2023) – Thirteen new grants have been awarded by Healthcare Foundation of Wilson to support community projects that focus on solutions to some of the greatest health challenges for Wilson.
Each year, Healthcare Foundation of Wilson provides responsive grant funding to organizations in the greater Wilson community, and the 2023 awards total more than $368,000 in funding for initiatives that focus on solutions with measurable outcomes to address four of the community’s greatest health concerns, including adolescent pregnancy, alcohol and substance abuse, obesity and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
The following grants have been approved to fund initiatives that address one or more of the four areas of health concern:
“We remain committed to providing grant funding for projects that address the greatest health concerns in our community,” said Denise O’Hara, executive director of Healthcare Foundation of Wilson. “Our responsive grant funding since 2016 totals more than $7.2 million, and our total community funding-to-date is $56.2 million, which includes strategic grant funding and financial support for hospital improvements.”
Y-GIG Afterschool Program Launched; Foundation YMCA Now Open Downtown
Following a summer sampler of activities for middle school youth, the Foundation YMCA kicked off Y-GIG (Youth Gather, Interact & Grow). The innovative afterschool program for middle school students started in fall 2022 at the new Foundation YMCA location in downtown Wilson with a wide range of activities such as cooking, robotics, literary chats, and web design, which were provided in collaboration with community partners.
Y-GIG and the new Foundation YMCA facility are part of a bold and strategic funding commitment of more than $25 million made by Healthcare Foundation of Wilson in 2018. The Foundation YMCA provides a special space and place in the heart of Wilson for the much-needed afterschool experiences that are now offered through the Y-GIG program for middle school youth from across the county.
“It is incredibly exciting to see our leadership’s vision becoming a reality with the launch of Y-GIG and the opening of Foundation YMCA,” said Denise O’Hara. “The promising outcomes are countless, and we look forward to seeing the many ways that Wilson youth and our entire community will benefit from the foundation’s investment in the creation of sustainable, high quality afterschool experiences and this positive, new place of health and wellness.”
Y-GIG Spring Session Starting Soon
The spring session of Y-GIG is scheduled to start March 13. Youth who enroll for Y-GIG will select activities from a menu of options for a 10-week session. Enriching activities are offered with a focus on academics, arts and humanities, college and career, health and wellness and STEM (science technology, engineering and mathematics).
Activities are provided onsite at the Foundation YMCA as well as within the community through partnerships with talented individuals and business leaders.
All middle school youth in Wilson County are eligible to enroll in Y-GIG. The Foundation YMCA offers a sliding scale rate, and scholarships are available. Students also have the option to select individual programs if they cannot attend full-time, and families can pay monthly or by session.
Y-GIG youth coordinators are assigned to each of the five middle schools in Wilson County, and transportation is provided from the five public schools to the Foundation YMCA and back to the schools.
Visit wilsonymca.org to learn more about enrollment for the next Y-GIG session.
Grant Funding Expands Healthy Experiences for Youth
Wilson youth were on the move in 2022 with a healthy taste of new activities thanks to grants awarded to The Arc of Wilson, Love A Sea Turtle, The SPOT and Wilson Police Athletic League.
Over the summer, Wilson Police Athletic League (PAL) offered a menu of camp experiences that kicked off with a Culinary Camp session during spring break. Youth made dough from scratch and prepared a meal from start to finish! The chef from Wilson Community College included food and kitchen safety tips as part of the experience, and the PAL volunteers teamed up with the youth for the kitchen creations. The monthly summer camp sessions featured football, cheerleading, baseball, softball and volleyball.
The Arc of Wilson added daily exercises activities at Camp Sunshine for youth with intellectual or developmental disabilities. Camp participants also received healthy snacks and lessons about healthy choices.
Wilson youth also enjoyed a two-week sailing camp along with concurrent options for golf thanks to a grant-funded partnership between Love A Sea Turtle (LAST) and The SPOT. The team expanded on their previously funded WOW (Wilson on Wheels) activities with new WOW (Wilson on Water) activities and other unique experiences to help develop physical fitness skills along with self-confidence.
Grant seekers have already submitted letters of inquiry to the foundation and are in the process of completing applications for 2023 funding. Healthcare Foundation of Wilson will announce new responsive grant awards in the summer. Learn more about what we fund and the responsive grant cycle.
Summit Provides Data for Community Health Needs Assessment
A local community health summit was hosted in late August to collect data needed for the 2022 Wilson Community Health Needs Assessment, which is a collaborative effort of Healthcare Foundation of Wilson, Wilson County Health Department and Wilson Medical Center.
Results of the full assessment will be published later in 2022, and each organization will address top health concerns with separate action plans.
Community Celebrates Wilson Changemakers and 2022 Grant Recipients
Healthcare Foundation of Wilson announced the 2022 responsive grant recipients over the summer with celebratory check presentations and the installation of banners to celebrate Changemakers of Wilson. Thirteen grant awards totaling $482,500 were awarded in July to support community projects that focus on solutions to some of the greatest health challenges for Wilson.
Healthcare Foundation of Wilson Announces 14 Responsive Grant Awards
WILSON, N.C. (July 11, 2022) – Healthcare Foundation of Wilson announces 14 grant awards totaling $482,500 to support community projects that focus on solutions to some of the greatest health challenges for Wilson.
Healthcare Foundation of Wilson provides responsive grants and strategic funding for programs that focus on sustainable solutions with measurable outcomes to address four of the community’s greatest health concerns, including adolescent pregnancy, alcohol and substance abuse, obesity and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). The following 2022 grants have been approved to fund initiatives that address one or more of the four areas of health concern:
“As we increase our investments in strategic funding initiatives with high potential for long-term, positive health outcomes, we remain committed to providing grant funding for projects that respond to current health needs and rising concerns in our community,” said Denise O’Hara, executive director of Healthcare Foundation of Wilson. “Our responsive grant funding since 2016 totals more than $6.8 million, and our total community funding-to-date is $54.6 million, which includes strategic grant funding and financial support for hospital improvements.”
Coming Soon! Future Home of Wilson’s New Middle School Afterschool Program Emerges Downtown
Excitement is building as construction progresses on the Foundation YMCA building –the future home of an innovative afterschool program for middle school youth that will launch in August 2022. The building and the much-needed youth program are being funded as the first strategic grant initiative of Healthcare Foundation of Wilson.
In 2018, Healthcare Foundation of Wilson made a bold commitment of $25 million in strategic grant funding and partnered with the YMCA to design, launch and sustain the afterschool program and building. Downtown Wilson was identified as a central location for this special place and space for youth that will be accessible to all middle school students in Wilson County.
“Together we are building a brighter future for children in Wilson County,” said Denise O’Hara, executive director of Healthcare Foundation of Wilson. “The countdown is on now, and we can’t wait to hear the buzz of youth activity that will fill the Foundation YMCA building during after school hours.”
Youth Engaged in Construction Project Student groups have been engaged in the project progress in different ways from early on – even in the design of the building. One group is participating in an 18-month Construction Academy created and led by Balfour Beatty in joint venture with Holt Brothers to help give middle school students a look at the entire construction process.
“We are excited about the opportunities that are already evolving for middle school youth to participate in real and unique experiences,” said O’Hara. “Adolescence is a significant time of brain growth and development, and we know that the environment and activities of youth play a key role in decision-making and future success.”
Learn More! Middle school students will be able to sign up soon for the afterschool program and select from a menu of experiences to discover their personal strengths, pursue their passions and explore new interests. The Foundation YMCA building is slated for completion by August 2022. To learn more about the 2022 program details and enrollment, contact Edwina Lucas at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 252-218-2794.
Sitting Still in Class is Overrated at The SPOT
Kids at The SPOT might not be sitting still much in class, and that’s actually by design. “We want students to move when they need to and do what works best for them to learn,” said Matt Edwards, director at The SPOT. “Sitting still simply isn’t necessary as much as we tend to think it is in the classroom.”
With grant support from Healthcare Foundation of Wilson, The SPOT implemented “My Classroom MOVES” interactive classrooms in August 2021 to provide students with the opportunity to exercise and move more together or individually throughout the day. The flexible classrooms include rising desks, alternative seating, under-desk treadmills, and floor mats at each station. All ages starting at kindergarten can use the desks since the height is adjustable.
Flexible classrooms can increase engagement, empower student choice, increase oxygen flow to the brain, and improve metabolism. The teachers changed their approach a bit, and before long everyone began to realize the new opportunities. Now that everyone has gotten used to the change, Edwards says both students and teachers seem happy that they no longer have the repeated interruption of a teacher needing to tell students to sit still.
Students have the opportunity to use the desk at anytime during their classroom or homework sessions. They can track calorie burn on the elliptical, which creates a fun opportunity for friendly competitions and some self-motivation. Additionally the program coordinator developed a My Classroom Moves plan for teachers to utilize during their daily class time. For example, teachers can have students stand or use a specific component of the active desk stations while learning for the first 15 minutes of a class.
With a total of 70 desks located in six of nine classrooms at The SPOT, homework or class work can take place two times a day for up to 140 students. They’re using these active desks approximately 12 hours a week. Classrooms at The SPOT are used for more than just homework and tutoring so the new active stations are being used for various programs, including STEM, iPad Labs and Restore Circles.
Another creative way that The SPOT has been keeping students physically moving is with virtual field trips. By using Oculus Virtual Reality, they’ve set up a fun way for kids to physically move within a designated space as they navigate places like monuments in Washington D.C. or The Sistine Chapel. These virtual experiences provide a new kind of active learning that get kids moving and exploring places they might never see otherwise.
“These changes have been extremely successful all around for our students who have ADHD or others who just need to move around more, as well as for those who prefer to sit still,” said Edwards. “When you give students the permission and ability to move freely, they find what works best on their own.”