Lilly Knoepp

Reporter

Lilly Knoepp serves as BPR’s first fulltime reporter covering Western North Carolina. She is a native of Franklin, NC who returns to WNC after serving as the assistant editor of Women@Forbes and digital producer of the Forbes podcast network.  She holds a master’s degree in international journalism from the City University of New York and earned a double major from UNC-Chapel Hill in religious studies and political science. 

Ways to Connect

Photo courtesy of Western Carolina University

The Western Carolina University Board of Trustees chose 3 candidates for chancellor to send along for consideration to the UNC System Board at their most recent meeting.

Interim UNC System President Dr. William Roper, who has served since Margaret Spelling stepped down, will consider the candidates.

WCU has been in search of a chancellor since 2017 when the late chancellor David Belcher stepped down after being diagnosed with brain cancer.

 

Dan Kowal/Jackson County NAACP

 The Jackson County NAACP believes that a local law is a violation of  their constitutional rights so they met with Sylva town leaders to make their case.

Activists protested at the bottom of the courthouse steps in Sylva almost every Wednesday last year. Their most recent protest was against President Trump’s executive order for a state of emergency to deal with the crisis at the border - and to appropriate his requested $5 billion from Congress to build a wall.  

Lilly Knoepp

  On the 200 year anniversary of territory being taken from the Eastern Band of the Cherokee in Macon County, the Franklin town council is moving toward a compromise to give that land back.  

 

The Franklin Town Council took an historic step Monday night to give the sacred Nikwasi Mound to a nonprofit organization run in part by the Eastern Band of the Cherokee -The Nikwasi Initiative.

 

Courtesy of the Invisible History Project/Josh Burford

The everyday lives of activists and community members in Western North Carolina didn’t make it into the history books.  A UNC Asheville professor is launching a project to bring to light the untold queer stories in our region.

Here’s more on the project - and how it’s a part of a larger preservation effort across the Southeast.

 

Queer history is presented as a narrow space, says Josh Burford. It’s mostly just for the urban, white, wealthy  and able-bodied. Burford wants to change that perception in the South.

Lilly Knoepp

The Dogwood Health Trust Board has announced Jackie Godlock of Rutherford County will join the board of directors. This brings the total board to 12 including Vice Chair Jack Cecil and Chair Janice Brumit.

Lilly Knoepp

The Dogwood Health Trust Board has announced Jackie Godlock of Rutherford County will join the board of directors. This brings the total board to 12 including Vice Chair Jack Cecil and Chair Janice Brumit.

Lilly Knoepp

The Dogwood Health Trust Board has announced Jackie Godlock of Rutherford County will join the board of directors. This brings the total board to 12 including Vice Chair Jack Cecil and Chair Janice Brumit.

Lilly Knoepp

The sale of Mission Health System to HCA, created the Dogwood Health Trust. Mission Health has also announced the creatation of a foundation to specifically represent the six westernmost counties in NC.

 

Nantahala Health Foundation will represent Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Jackson, Macon, Swain counties and the Qualla Boundary.

Photo courtesy of Great Smokies Health Foundation

  Since the Mission Health-HCA sale officially closed, the charitable foundation created with the proceeds of the sale - Dogwood Health Trust - is now official too.  While it will be the largest such foundation for Western North Carolina, it’s not the first created by the sale of a health system.  

 

Lilly Knoepp

Mission Health’s sale to for-profit HCA may be final, but skeptics who pushed back against the deal during the many months of its negotiations aren’t letting up.

 

North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein negotiated stronger protections for the rural hospitals as a result of the state, but there’s still plenty of ‘optimistic skepticism.’

 

Lilly Knoepp

 Access to healthcare can be difficult all over Western North Carolina - but that’s especially true in the rural parts of the region, where hospitals are far apart and average incomes are lower than in Asheville.

One of the few free clinics in Western North Carolina is located in Bryson City.

Lilly Knoepp

Both nationally and locally, candidates are beginning to startup their campaigns for 2020. But one important election is taking place this year in Western North Carolina.

 

The Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians are a sovereign nation with their own governmental structure. All 12 spots for the members of the tribal council as well as the principal chief and the vice chief  are open since their 2 year terms are ending.

Lilly Knoepp

Today, Mission Health System has officially been purchased by for-profit hospital system HCA Healthcare for $1.5 billion dollars. The sale has been in negotiations since March 2018.

“We’re looking forward to investing in western North Carolina and helping ensure Mission Health’s 133-year tradition of caring for communities throughout the region continues for many years,” says Sam Hazen, CEO of HCA Healthcare in a press release.

Shade Tree Farms

  Southwestern Community College’s first ever AgriBusiness Summit this week brought together farmers of all kinds to learn about new regulations, grants and skills.

 

Over 100 farmers – both veteran and beginner – attended to learn new skills or brush up on old ones. Tiffany Henry of Southwestern’s Small Business Center reminded them all of the importance of having a business plan.

 

“If you are a farmer, you are a business. Even a hobbyist will sell their excess at a farmer’s market,” says Henry.

Lilly Knoepp

 More than 2 million people in North Carolina will be impacted when changes to the state’s Medicaid program take effect.

 

At the end of last year, North Carolina finalized terms to move to a managed-care system for Medicaid in the state. The first regions of North Carolina where those changes will be rolled out will be announced at the beginning of February says Deputy Secretary for North Carolina Medicaid Dave Richards.

 

Lilly Knoepp

  Freezing temperatures did not deter thousands from taking part in Sunday’s Women’s March in Asheville.  BPR followed a women’s empowerment club from Western Carolina University as they experienced their first protest. As  the Queens of WCU walked up the sidewalk chants of, “We are unstoppable. Another world is possible,” echoed in downtown Asheville.                     

 

Erica McCurdy, is a junior and the President of Queens of WCU. The club was founded at the beginning of the school year and is one of the only women’s club on campus, says McCurdy.

Lilly Knoepp

 Freezing temperatures did not deter thousands from taking part in Sunday’s Women’s March in Asheville.  BPR followed a women’s empowerment club from Western Carolina University as they experienced their first protest. As  the Queens of WCU walked up the sidewalk chants of, “We are unstoppable. Another world is possible,” echoed in downtown Asheville.                     

 

Lilly Knoepp

 Freezing temperatures did not deter thousands from taking part in Sunday’s Women’s March in Asheville.  BPR followed a women’s empowerment club from Western Carolina University as they experienced their first protest. As  the Queens of WCU walked up the sidewalk chants of, “We are unstoppable. Another world is possible,” echoed in downtown Asheville.                     

 

Lilly Knoepp

 Celebrations of the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King echo across the nation today.

Macon Country has celebrated with a service including chruches from across the county for more than 25 years .

“Now is the time to lift our Nation from the quicksand of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood,” says Reverend Mozart Moliere.

Moliere is the pastor at Burgess Chapel in Franklin. His rendition of Dr. King’s “ I Have a Dream” speech brought the audience to their feet at First United Methodist Church.

Lilly Knoepp

Below freezing temperature didn't stop supporters of the Women's March from coming out on Sunday in Asheville. Reports of anti-Semitism  and racism caused schisms and cancellations at marches around the country on Saturday. However, marchers in Asheville say that they feel like the current women's movement is still moving the country forward.

Lilly Knoepp

  One impact of the partial federal government shutdown has been the lack of federal grant dollars going to nonprofits around the country. Here’s a look at one in our region - a domestic violence shelter in Franklin.

 

Lilly Knoepp

  As the federal government remains partially shutdown for a third week, volunteers and nonprofits are stepping up to keep parks clean.

 

You’ve probably seen a Friends of the Smokies license plate on the back of a car. Funds from those plates help make up the $1.5 million the organization gives to the Great Smoky Mountain National Park each year.  But sometimes the need goes beyond those regular funds.

 

Lilly Knoepp

 The partial shutdown of the federal government is in to its third week. BPR headed out past the Great Smoky Mountain National Park on the edge of Macon Country to see what effects, if any, the shutdown is having on the area.

 

Standing Indian Campground is in the Nantahala National Forest. The campground is always closed this time of year but people are still able to access the trails within the forest.  So the area still has plenty of visitors. Right now downed limbs and trees litter the roads and trails at Standing Indian.

Photo courtesy of Dollywood Foundation

It’s been two years since wildfires burned Western North Carolina and devastated the town of Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Country music superstar Dolly Parton stepped up to help rebuild Sevier County through an unconventional policy.

 

Photo courtesy of Lilly Knoepp

  Last week, Dogwood Health Trust confirmed to BPR it has already started hosting listening sessions in Western North Carolina to learn about the community.

 

While the Mission Health-HCA sale that would create the Dogwood Health Trust is not yet finalized, details are emerging about Dogwood Health Trust’s listening sessions.

 

Lilly Knoepp

The Mission Health-HCA deal is still being reviewed by Attorney General Josh Stein but Dogwood Health Trust - the nonprofit organization that will be formed with the proceeds from the sale - is already speaking to the community about the best ways to help local nonprofits in the region.

Lilly Knoepp

  Over 10 mayors and community leaders from Western North Carolina met this week to discuss how to expand the outdoor industry in their towns.

 

Photo courtesy of Western Carolina University

This week, Western Carolina University Board of Trustees approved increased fees and rates for the 2019-20 academic year. Overall, mandatory fees paid by students will increase by $48 dollars per year or 1.7 percent.

This includes an $8 increase in the health services feel, $14 increase in the student activity fee and a $26 per year increase in the university’s athletics fee as well as other increases.

Lilly Knoepp

The Dogwood Health Trust Board has confirmed Vivian Bolanos (Henderson County) and Jacquelyn “Jackie” Shropshire Simms (Buncombe County) as new members. This brings the total board to 11 including Vice Chair Jack Cecil and Chair Janice Brumit.

Lilly Knoepp

  The Mission Health-HCA Deal is still under review on the desk of the state attorney general. Mission Health previously stated that the deal would be finalized in November. However, critics have questioned the price tag on the deal, the commitment made by HCA to keep rural hospitals open and the structure of the Dogwood Health Trust Foundation.

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