RALEIGH, NC (WSPA) – Hometown Strong, created to forge partnerships between rural communities and state government, will be expanding to help all 80 rural North Carolina counties respond to COVID-19, as well as will help strengthen the local economies.
According to a news release, Gov. Roy Cooper named Mary Penny Kelley as the new Executive Director of Hometown Strong, and she will take charge of the rural initiative.
“Having grown up in rural North Carolina, I know well the great opportunities as well as the challenges there,” Cooper said. “The pandemic has put a spotlight on rural needs and we will listen to local leaders and work to get them the help they deserve.”
The governor created Hometown Strong in 2018 to “build partnerships between state agencies and local leaders to champion rural communities.”
Hometown Strong will work with the new NC Pandemic Recovery Office to focus on initiatives that will help small towns and rural areas recover, which includes access to health care, economic planning for commercial revitalization and remote learning for students and workers.
Kelley previously served as the director of operations and rural engagement for Hometown Strong and also served in senior positions at the Department of Environmental Quality and the Attorney General’s Office.
“Hometown Strong for me is a return to the rural communities that are the very backbone of North Carolina,” Kelley said. “Rural communities grow our food, provide our outdoor adventures, greet us on Main Street and rely on neighbor helping neighbor during times of trouble. The pandemic is certainly a time of trouble, threatening our health and our livelihoods. It is time to pitch in with our neighbors and add our resources to the fight against the pandemic and to strengthen our hometowns.”
For more information, visit www.hometownstrong.nc.gov.