the obstacles to accessing care many residents face. In 2018, Care Ring started a partnership with Grier Heights, one of Charlotte’s oldest historically Black neighborhoods, providing monthly health screenings and telling residents about our variety of services. That relationship has grown and evolved to continue to meet the needs of the residents there. As we reflect on Black History Month, we wanted to share more about this important neighborhood and how we are working WITH its denizens to keep it thriving.
The neighborhood grew slowly until the 1940s, when Mr. Grier built 100 homes that were sold to Black soldiers returning from World War II. Some of these homes are still standing today. The community became a thriving suburb that was home to lower-income and middle-class Black families. A school for grades 1-9 was established in 1927, called Billingsville School. Today, the building that housed the school is the Grier Heights Community Center.
Care Ring has been fortunate to be one of the recipients of this generosity over the past few years. Camilla Clark, who served as the funeral home’s Business Administrator for 17 years and serves on the company’s Board of Directors, is the great niece of Arthur S. Grier through her father, James K. Polk Sr. (Camilla herself is a significant figure in Charlotte’s history - she and her oldest sister and a cousin were also the first black students to integrate Myers Park High School). She felt moved to make a donation on behalf of the business to Care Ring after learning of our service to Grier Heights.
the community efforts that we have made over the years. A community that is near and dear to my heart where Care Ring has a footprint is Grier Heights. As a descendant of Arthur Samuel Grier (he was my 3rd uncle), I was excited to find an organization such as Care Ring that is doing impactful work in the community through a healthcare lens and that I have found a home on the Board of Directors.”
Morgan’s service to preserving and uplifting historic Black neighborhoods doesn’t end with Grier Heights. She is also the Finance Manager for the Smithville Community Coalition. Smithville is a century old Black community in Cornelius, NC. It is one of the oldest Black communities in northern Mecklenburg County, where after the Civil War the area became a home to sharecroppers and other working
When Care Ring was started in 1955 by nurse Maribelle Connerat, one of the ways she served the community was by going into underserved and segregated neighborhoods and bringing care directly to residents’ doorsteps. Over the decades, both for-profit and non-profit healthcare providers moved away from this model of service delivery, but now it is seeing a resurgence as community organizations realize the value of place-based services to overcome
The Founding of Grier Heights
Grier Heights is a historically Black neighborhood of approximately 3,000 people in East Charlotte bordered by Briar Creek Road, Monroe Road, Randolph Road, and Billingsley Road. It was founded in the 1890’s when Sam Billings, a formerly enslaved man, purchased 100 acres of land on what was then the outskirts of Charlotte. He was the first Black person to ever buy land in Charlotte. In 1907, Sam Billings, together with John Jackson, Arthur Samuel Grier, Lee Father MacDuff Dinkins, and James McVay, purchased additional land. By the 1920s, the neighborhood was home to several of Charlotte’s prominent Black residents, including Arthur S. Grier. Born in 1886, he was the child of a formerly enslaved woman and despite the extremely challenging times, grew to become an entrepreneur, real estate developer and funeral home director. The community was originally named Grier Town in his honor.
The Grier Family: A Legacy of Service
In addition to his contribution of building the Grier Town community, Arthur S. Grier recognized another need in 1930: a funeral service to provide dignified and compassionate care for the forcibly segregated Black community. He and his brother Leroy Grier established Grier Funeral Service, the first to carry the Grier family name in Charlotte. Located originally in the historic Brooklyn community, it later moved to Statesville Avenue in 1965 and finally to its current location in the Hoskins community off Brookshire Boulevard. Over the past near-century, Grier Funeral Service has also been a generous supporter of a variety of organizations that serve our most vulnerable neighbors, “giving back” to their community.
She said, “Grier Funeral Service and Care Ring are truly partners – as we provide service to all families and neighbors at their time of need. Care Ring is a worthy cause and we will continue to support a common goal – serving the community.”
There is another member of the Grier family who is creating a legacy of service: Morgan Hinton. She joined the Care Ring Board of Directors in 2020. Like her aunt Camilla Clark, she was impressed by the work Care Ring is doing with the Grier Heights community, and has been instrumental in helping us to further expand that relationship. She says, “I am honored to serve in partnership with such a great organization such as Care Ring because our care goes beyond the walls of any building. With amazing team leadership from the Executive Director, and staff who put healthcare for all at the forefront of all we do, I’m proud of
class Blacks. The land was settled in 1908 near cotton fields where the formerly enslaved residents worked the nearby plantations. SCC is currently undergoing a Revitalization Plan that will create affordable housing options. The neighborhood will be mixed-income primarily for working class residents with a total of 167 units in the near future.
Building a Healthier Future, Together
The residents and leaders of Grier Heights have always taken great pride in what they’ve built in their community and fought hard to make it the best it can be. Care Ring stands with them in this endeavor, by making healthcare and other resources more accessible right where they live. Every Tuesday, we have two Community Health Workers, a Registered Nurse, a social worker and a UNC-Charlotte Nurse Practitioner on site to provide healthcare, mental health,
and social support services at no cost to residents. And in the last year, Care Ring has sought to further expand this partnership with Grier Heights by extending to its resident a new initiative called Community-Based Health Care. Serving as the leading quarterback organization for this effort, Care Ring actively convened 7 other partner organizations, encouraging a multidisciplinary collaboration. Inspiring a new approach to care beyond brick and mortar, by using the deepened connection with the neighborhood, care has expanded to include care coordination, health system navigation, counseling support, health coaching and links to community resources.
“This opportunity has provided us the ability to build upon the critical asset of trust, better understand best-practices that reduce barriers to care, and best of all, provide more equitable access to care for residents in need. Our success in this effort is the result of a clear passion for health equity and collaborative service,” shared Tchernavia Montgomery, Care Ring’s Executive Director.
In addition to CrossRoads Corporation, collaborating organizations include ONE Charlotte Health Alliance, Novant Health, Project Bolt, Next Stage Consulting, and UNC-Charlotte. As this pilot project is set to conclude in June of 2023, Care Ring hopes that the positive outcomes achieved through this innovative offering will attract new funders and present opportunities to expand to other neighborhoods in need.
“It’s proven to be an efficient and effective means of operating a mobilized health effort,” reports Montgomery. Continued partnerships with other organizations - like the United Way of Greater Charlotte, which allows for the creation of a network of support - also ensures the voices of residents are always heard and that the work being done aligns to meet the ever-changing needs of the community. Together, we are building a healthier future for Grier Heights that will continue to stand the test of time.
Montgomery concludes, “The key ingredient to any true partnership is trust, and we are grateful that the Grier Heights community continues to allow us to build upon that which we’ve already established.”
Care Ring would like to thank and acknowledge Board of Directors member Morgan Hinton for collecting and providing some of the photos used in this article and the history of Grier Heights and her family. Other sources for this article include: City-data.com, WFAE, UNC-Charlotte