When our federal government announced 'Project America Strong' aimed at distributing hundreds of thousands of reusable face coverings throughout the nation to support communities through COVID-19, United Way of Asheville and Buncombe County stepped up to request over 100,000 for Western North Carolina. Volunteer Engagement Director Michelle Bennett immediately put the call out to regional nonprofit leaders, touching base with specific organizations to ensure masks were distributed equitably to high-risk communities, rural communities and communities of color disproportionately affected by the impacts of the coronavirus.
Within four days, 410 nonprofit and grassroots organizations representing 18 WNC counties submitted requests totaling over 130,000 masks. To help meet the demand, State of Franklin Health Council provided an additional 50,000 masks. Nantahala Health Foundation and Highlands Cashiers Health Foundation stepped in as integral partners in sorting and distributing to the westernmost counties to ensure access throughout the region.