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June 9, 2015

Three Catawba County programs have been named winners of a 2015 National Association of Counties (NACo) Achievement Award.

The Catawba County Library System won two of the awards. One is for a partnership that expands the Library’s capacity to improve early literacy and digital literacy skills in young children through outreach to children in local daycares. The Library’s second award is for a Community Garden project that grows local vegetables and minds, with the produce donated to community food banks and the garden itself providing a setting for library programs and events.

Catawba County Public Health won the third NACo Award for its collaborative effort with Catawba County and six municipalities (Brookford, Catawba, Claremont, Conover, Hickory and Newton) to adopt tobacco-free campus policies or ordinances within the span of one year, creating healthier government facilities and parks for the combined 146,140 residents they serve.

"NACo awards demonstrate Catawba County's continuing effort to find innovative and creative ways to deliver sound, efficient services to our citizens," said Randy Isenhower, Chair of the Catawba County Board of Commissioners. "My fellow commissioners and I are very pleased with these awards."

The NACo Achievement Awards program, now in its 44th year, gives national recognition to significant and innovative programs that improve county organization, management and service delivery. Catawba County has won 202 awards over the history of the NACo program and has been honored during each of its 44 years.

The Catawba County Library System’s Early Literacy Outreach - Every Child Ready to Read program is a collaboration with local agencies, including the Catawba County Partnership for Children, through which the Library expanded its capacity to improve the early literacy and digital literacy skills of young children. It includes outreach to children in local daycares. A Library outreach specialist delivered “Every Child Ready to Read” story times for children in daycares and conducted empowering workshops for caregivers on how to nurture early literacy. The specialist also integrated the use of Kindle Fire tablets to establish and improve the digital literacy skills of children and caregivers. This project was made possible through funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) under the provisions of the Library Services and Technology Act as administered by the State Library of North Carolina, a division of the Department of Cultural Resources.

The Library’s Community Garden Project was initiated in 2014 as a collaboration with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Catawba Center and other local groups to grow local vegetables and minds, as well as provide learning opportunities and a chance to give back to the community. The produce is donated to community food banks while the garden itself provides a setting for Library programs and events. The goal of the community garden is to engage more people from the community with opportunities, such as growing food and eating the food they grow, participating in sustainable agriculture and garden workshops, and taking part in health and wellness activities at the garden.

“I am very proud of these innovative and collaborative programs that connect more of our community with empowering learning opportunities,” said Suzanne White, Director of the Catawba County Library System.

Catawba County Public Health won the County’s third 2015 National Association of Counties Achievement Award for its Tobacco Free Initiative, a collaborative effort with Catawba County and six municipalities (Brookford, Catawba, Claremont, Conover, Hickory and Newton) – to adopt tobacco-free campus policies or ordinances within the span of one year.  Through this initiative, Public Health facilitated local movement toward tobacco-free government buildings, grounds and parks after first working with Catawba County to expand its smoke-free campus policy to a tobacco-free policy in March 2013. From there, staff worked with leadership from the county’s eight municipalities to explore the pursuit of tobacco-free policies. Six of those municipalities ultimately decided to enact ordinances or policies, which became effective in early 2014.

The county and these municipalities joined organizations in Catawba County that have previously established tobacco-free campus policies, including Catawba County Schools (2002), Hickory Public Schools (2004), Newton-Conover City Schools (2004), Catawba County Public Health (2005), Catawba Valley Medical Center (2006), Frye Regional Medical Center (2006), and Catawba Valley Community College (2009). Catawba County’s restaurants and bars became smoke-free in 2010.

“The decision to expand existing smoke-free policies reflects a continued commitment by local leaders to promote a healthy and safe environment for their employees and the public,” said Catawba County Public Health Director Doug Urland. “We commend them for their leadership and support their efforts to foster a culture of health in Catawba County. We are very pleased that NACo has chosen to recognize this important partnership and give it a national spotlight, which we hope will encourage other governments across the nation to create partnerships for healthier communities.”

Catawba County’s NACo Awards will be presented to County officials during the Association’s annual conference, being held in Charlotte in July. Employees involved in the three programs will also be recognized at an upcoming Board of Commissioners meeting and at the annual County Awards Night dinner in October.