November 2, 2014

 “The Conservation Fund congratulates Reverend Richard Joyner, Founder and Director of Conetoe Family Life Center, for receiving the 2014 Purpose Prize, which recognizes social innovators over 60 who are working to advance the social good in their communities and around the world.  We were honored to nominate Reverend Joyner for this award because his work truly deserves national attention for its effectiveness in addressing chronic health problems, improving nutrition and the educational performance of youth and growing leadership and a strong community through a 25-acre community farm. 

“Conetoe is located in rural northeastern North Carolina, in a county that is home to extraordinary natural resources and landscapes, as well as devastating poverty and unemployment. It also ranks among the lowest in health factors and outcomes of all North Carolina counties.  In his first year as pastor of a congregation of less than 300, Reverend Joyner conducted over 30 funerals for people under the age of 32, mostly for chronic health problems.  He also saw 65% unemployment among adult congregants due to the area’s loss of manufacturing jobs, youth participating in gangs and extraordinarily high adult and youth obesity rates. 

“Reverend Joyner began by preaching ‘Healthy Sunday’ sermons to encourage congregants to change their eating habits.  He wanted to serve healthy food at church events, but there were no grocery stores for miles around. Taking matters into his own hands, he launched a 2-acre community garden to ‘grow their own.’  That garden has now grown to 25 acres, and there are youth summer day camp and afterschool programs that are engaging 64 young people (ages 4 to 18 years) in planning, planting, harvesting and selling healthy foods in the garden. 

“The Conservation Fund’s Resourceful Communities Program has provided small grants through our Creating New Economies Fund to support Reverend Joyner’s work in Conetoe.  We have provided organizational development support to Conetoe Family Life Center and coaching to help strengthen theses programs. We have also helped connect Reverend Joyner and CFLC’s staff and volunteers to funding, information, and agencies and nonprofits that are providing other support for the programs. 

“Through our statewide and national connections, we have helped Reverend Joyner share this innovative, community, self-help effort through presentations at state-level health policy groups and national funder groups.  We are excited that our nomination of Reverend Joyner for the Purpose Prize was accepted at the initial level; and we thank and the Purpose Prize for recognizing his passion, commitment and accomplishments as a social innovator.”

About The Conservation Fund
At The Conservation Fund, we make conservation work for America. By creating solutions that make environmental and economic sense, we are redefining conservation to demonstrate its essential role in our future prosperity. Top-ranked for efficiency and effectiveness, we have worked in all 50 states to protect more than 7.5 million acres of land since 1985.