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Photo courtesy of Catawba County Government

Catawba County Programs Receive National & State Awards

Several Catawba County programs have received achievement awards from the National Association of Counties (NACo) and the North Carolina Association of County Commissioners (NCACC). The awards, which recognize innovative county government programs and services, were presented during the Catawba County Board of Commissioners’ meeting September 6, 2022.

The Catawba County Library System was named NACo’s 2022 Arts, Culture and Historic Preservation Best in Category winner for Hmong Keeb Kwm: The Hmong Heritage Project. Through this project, the Library worked with the local Hmong community, the Historical Association and Digital Heritage NC to collect, curate, and preserve a digital collection of the twentieth-century history of Hmong migration and community-building within the region. Hmong individuals and families were invited to share their experiences, cultural heritage and artifacts, allowing the library to preserve them and make them accessible online for everyone including future generations. The project included several cultural events sharing and celebrating the traditional music, food, dance, and literature of the Hmong culture. The project can be found online at https://www.digitalnc.org/exhibits/hmong-keeb-kwm/.

The Library’s Community Navigator program was recognized for hosting interns from the Appalachian State University School of Social Work to interview high-need patrons, assess their most immediate needs, and refer them to community resources when possible. Through direct interactions, interns helped citizens navigate services, provided mental health first aid, and facilitated training for library staff including de-escalation strategies and trauma informed care.

The Catawba County Park System was recognized for implementing major operational changes that increased visitor access to the County’s parks in response to steadily rising visitation numbers and recent park system expansions. These changes included shifting park operations to 7 days a week/362 days a year, opening the parks an hour earlier, and hiring the additional staff needed to support a growing park system.

The Catawba County Library System’s Wi-Fi for All program was double winner, earning a 2022 NACo Achievement Award and a 2022 Civic Excellence in Innovation Award. The Civic Excellence in Innovation Awards from NCACC are given to only ten winners each year and are accompanied by a $1,000 cash prize.

Wi-Fi for All is a two-pronged effort to decrease the gap in the digital divide by partnering with community organizations to establish spaces with free public access wireless Internet and to provide Internet-enabled devices for individuals to borrow from the library. It expands free access to broadband Internet on simple devices and at locations convenient to community members who cannot afford their own device or to have the Internet at home. It is designed so that all Catawba County citizens benefit including school children, those in the workforce, employers, and health care patients.

Catawba County Public Health also earned a 2022 Civic Excellence in Innovation Award for its regional Hepatitis Coalition, a collaborative effort among a wide range of community partners to address rising rates of hepatitis in Catawba and surrounding counties. Through a focus on Hepatitis A vaccination, Catawba County’s Hepatitis A rate plummeted from 46.4 per 100,000 residents to 5 per 100,000 residents, moving Catawba County from ranking sixth highest in Hepatitis A infections in North Carolina to eleventh in just over six months.

[News release from Catawba County Government]