Census efforts result in gift to Mitchell County

  • This banner outside Bakersville was posted by SEARCH volunteers Risa and Howard Larsen with help from Charles “Chuck” Vines in an effort to boost local census numbers. (Submitted)

Participating in the US Census is crucial to the state and federal funding that our county government receives.

On average, $1,800 per person per year comes into our county from those sources.  However, by early summer this year it was apparent that the pandemic was having a negative impact on the public’s interest in taking the census.

Therefore, nonprofit Sustaining Essential And Rural Community Healthcare (SEARCH) was pleased to work in collaboration with the Dogwood Health Trust during the summer and fall to create eye-catching materials to encourage residents of Mitchell County to self-respond to the 2020 US Census.  

A group of volunteers distributed rack cards, posters and street banners with guidance on how to take the census.  Heading the local effort was Risa Larsen, who was helped by Vanessa Hammill, Howard Larsen, Vanassa South, Kit and Dan Faulk, George Walter, Susan Larson, Reid Duncan as well as all the Mitchell residents who graciously allowed SEARCH to use their photos on the posters and banners. 

Volunteers took materials into stores, agencies, nonprofits, foundations, businesses, restaurants, volunteer fire departments and convenience centers and distributed fliers online and in the Town of Spruce Pine water bills.  

Newspaper articles, radio spots, radio ads and posts on SEARCH’s Facebook page joined the advertisements that Dogwood placed in our county to encourage participation.  

By Oct. 15 when the census ended, Mitchell County’s self-response rate was 54.5 percent, which resulted in county government receiving a total of $14,000 from Dogwood to be used as the county sees fit.

The Mitchell County Board of Commissioners approved an allocation of $1,000 to SEARCH to be used in their efforts to honor nurses for the heroic work during the pandemic.