In 1994, the 68-year-old Stecoah Union School in Graham County was forced to close its doors, losing what community members saw as the cultural center of their community. Fast-forward to 2014, and the Stecoah Valley Cultural Arts Center is flourishing in that space, thanks to strong community determination, a lot of elbow grease, and by its continued relationship with WNC Nonprofit Pathways.

“We are long-time Pathway fans,” said Beth Fields, Executive Director of the Stecoah Valley Cultural Arts Center. “Our successes advanced much more quickly with the help of WNC Nonprofit Pathways.”

With the loss of the school, the small community created a nonprofit to lead and secure funding for their three-pronged renewal project: to serve their community, help Appalachian artisans and restore the buildings. Pathways offered the tools to understanding the core areas of nonprofit operations.

“Our organization would have collapsed before it even began to be a significant change agent for our county if not for Pathways,” said Fields. “We had no clear understanding how complicated it is to run a nonprofit.”

Pathways programs provide the fundamentals for nonprofit development. Fields and her team were committed to understanding how a nonprofit is structured and creating checks and balances to be sustainable for the long-term.

“We needed a lot of direction,’ said Fields. “We have a responsibility to the community we serve and we would not be as advanced as we are today without the help we receive from Pathways.”

Starting out, the new nonprofit wanted to insure its board was efficient and capable of the challenges ahead. “We first utilized Pathways’ Board Best Practices training. We wanted the board to be committed to working together for the benefit of the organization and not just a group who is passionate about keeping it alive,” said Fields. “The Pathways’ team came on-site and tailored the training specifically to our needs. Today our board runs competently and understands the legal and ethical responsibilities that come by working together as a team.”

The association with Pathways has also provided the Stecoah Valley Cultural Arts Center a network of like-minded people with similar goals and aspirations as service providers. “You just cannot do anything well by yourself,” she said. “It’s good to have connections and resources to help growth.”

Also important for growth is effective leadership. “Pathways offered us leadership training that significantly helped enhance our ability to provide services under an ever-increasingly complex environment,” said Fields. “By being strong leaders for the Stecoah Valley Cultural Arts Center, we’ve also become strong leaders for our community overall.”

Today the Stecoah Valley Cultural Arts Center is a thriving example of how a community can come together and make change happen. “We are committed to preserving the cultural center of our heritage,” said Fields. “And we wouldn’t be where we are without WNC Nonprofit Pathways. They have opened many doors for us and are trusted partners who care.”

For more information about WNC Nonprofit Pathways, visit www.nonprofitpathways.org or email contact@nonprofitpathways.org.
For more information about the Stecoah Valley Cultural Arts Center, visit www.stecoahvalleycenter.com or call 828-479-3364.

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