Rasheeda McDaniels sees with unflinching clarity the power of neighbors and families to live into a better future together. This force of vision, ignited by the death of a vulnerable four-year-old in our community, was crystallized through one-on-one conversations that Rasheeda had with neighbors - coming into their homes and simply asking, "What do you need?" From this question, Rasheeda gathered stories of mothers and fathers who wanted their children to grow up in a safe neighborhood, who worried about their own health and wanted to find ways to stay healthy so they could be there for their kids. She heard about neighbors who were afraid to walk through their neighborhoods. She also saw the many ways that neighbors continued to do the best they could and how with some added supports they could do even better. From these stories, Rasheeda was inspired to start an outreach program through Buncombe County Health and Human Services. The program employs community service navigators throughout our community to bring resources into communities and strengthens and rebuilds relationships among neighbors.
One of the efforts in partnership with Manna Foodbank has created the successful and nationally recognized "Pop Up Market". Acting as a distribution line for perishable and nonperishable food, Rasheeda uses community volunteers to provide "Pop Up Markets" regularly in some of our most vulnerable communities. Tables are adorned with checkered tablecloths and flowers and neighbors can shop for food and visit. Through this program buddy systems have sprung up, health screenings have connected individuals to vital medical resources and community members have felt empowered to take on other efforts. Rasheeda has also shepherded a program to help youth stay connected to parents who are incarcerated and also allowed these youth to connect with each other, finding comfort and support.
Rasheeda's efforts continue to build capacity in our community. Most recently, she has been named "Community Outreach and Development Manager". In her team, she has community service navigators, prevention social workers, and a prevention nurse. This team will continue to work side-by-side with our community listening to what they need, observing what is working well, and giving lift to ideas and efforts to improve the health, safety and well-being of our community.