Community Foundation awards $75,000 to HandMade in America

Press release

From the Community Foundation of Western North Carolina

(September 18, 2012) A $75,000 Preserving Natural and Cultural Resources Focus Area Grant to HandMade in America will expand technical assistance and community development efforts as part of their Economic Development program for rural communities. Using HandMade’s cultural asset-based economic development model, the expansion aims to transform communities in CFWNC’s 18-county service area.

“This investment is about creating opportunities and recognizing the distinctive assets and potential of many small communities in Western North Carolina,” said CFWNC President Elizabeth Brazas. “We strive to be truly regional in our focus areas, but that is a challenge with 18 counties and limited resources. HandMade has a track record that makes it an ideal partner in our effort to attract other funds, create jobs, build communities and drive revitalization.”

HandMade has been a leader and innovator in creative placemaking and asset-based economic development in Western North Carolina since 1993. Within the last year, HandMade narrowed its focus to be more effective. As a result of this process, the organization is moving from project-based to program-based operations. New program areas include Craft Artist Entrepreneurship, Economic Development and Education.

Western North Carolina’s small towns contribute significantly to our culture, but in many cases these towns are also where unemployment and poverty levels are the greatest. Currently, HandMade works with 13 small towns in 10 counties, connecting them with funders, partners and resources. The Foundation’s investment will enable HandMade to apply a more robust economic development lens to opportunities and projects and to do more outreach, evaluation and coalition building. A focus on leadership development and planning will help small communities access opportunities for funding from sources such as the National Endowment for the Arts, the NC Arts Council and the NC Rural Center, among others.

“The Small Towns program has opened and expanded businesses, attracted funding, built parks and greenways and created jobs through existing assets,” said HandMade Executive Director Gwynne Rukenbrod. “The Community Foundation’s grant complements our existing work and new strategic direction and will enable us to reinvigorate our efforts to integrate arts and crafts with community revitalization in Western North Carolina.”

The Community Foundation is a nonprofit serving eighteen counties in Western North Carolina. In 2011, The Community Foundation adopted a new strategic plan that focuses discretionary resources on People in Need, Early Childhood Development, Food and Farming and Preserving Natural and Cultural Resources. The Foundation facilitates more than $11 million in charitable giving annually. More information can be found at


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