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Director's Log

Director’s Log | April 2024

Sarah Hall headshot
IEI Director Sarah Hall

Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of welcoming folks to our 2024 Faith and Community Initiative conference in Asheboro. This event brings together rural faith leaders from a variety of denominations and traditions to discuss emerging, secular (i.e., nonreligious) topics that are important to their communities.

IEI entered this space because we recognize the important role churches, synagogues and other faith centers play in connecting rural North Carolina communities to resources and services. There was a growing number of faith leaders who wanted to tackle emerging issues in their community, and we had the resources and ability to connect them to each other, as well as to local and state leadership. Thanks to support from The Duke Endowment, we’ve been able to keep this program going strong for almost a decade.

This year’s conference featured discussions on mental health, food and nutrition, digital inclusion, state legislative updates and other topics important to rural North Carolinians. Read more about the event in this recap. We look forward to hosting local convenings in the coming months to keep the important conversations going. Thanks to our Faith and Community Initiative Leader Ellen Beasley and Finance and Operations Specialist Alicia Shelton for putting together this incredible event!

Personally, this conference always brings me fond memories. 

Approximately nine years ago, I was in charge of planning our first conference for rural faith leaders from across the state. Off the clock, I was also planning my wedding. Lo and behold, imagine my surprise when I realized that the inaugural gathering would be the same week as my wedding! The upside? A group of faith leaders blessed my marriage. Nine years and two kids later, we’re still going strong.

Speaking of events, I want to thank everyone who joined us for “Constructive Compromise: Governance in our Polarized Political Environment” on March 28. This conversation, in partnership with NC State’s School of Public and International Affairs, gave students the chance to hear from young government professionals who are working across the aisle to better their communities and the state. Special thanks to Rep. Kyle Hall, Rep. Charles Smith, Young Republican National Federation Co-Chair Catherine Whiteford and Office of Governor Roy Cooper Policy Advisor Ziev Dalsheim-Kahane for joining us! If you didn’t get a chance to attend, check out the recording on our YouTube channel

We are excited to host our first statewide BAND-NC event, “Digital Opportunities: Growing Connections Across North Carolina,” on June 4 at Blue Ridge Community College in Flat Rock. Registration is officially open. Check out our website for more information and to reserve your spot.

Finally, I want to close out this month’s message by giving a shoutout to IEI’s Director of Community Initiatives Samantha Graham! Samantha recently received the 2024 Outstanding Engagement Award from NC State’s Office of Outreach and Engagement for her work across the state to increase digital opportunity through community planning, technical assistance, training, and implementation funds. Congratulations, Samantha!