For 61 years, Better Health (a Network for Good customer since 2017) has addressed the unmet healthcare needs of Cumberland County’s low-income residents through education, referral, and assistance. Since 2015, Executive Director and CEO Amy Navejas has managed a small team of ten staff. Though they are small, they are mighty—that small staff touched over 7,000 people in 2017.
Caring for a community
Originally, Better Health filled emergency medications for individuals in need. Over time they evolved to meet the needs of the community; aiding with things that strain a low-income person’s financial reserves, such as emergency dental extractions, eyeglasses, and travel to the larger North Carolina hospitals.
“We don’t want anybody to have to choose between food and rent and a critical medical need.”
In the 1970s, Better Health launched an education-based diabetes program to help clients manage their disease along with their doctor. Through the program, a patient can get their blood sugar and blood pressure checked; take classes; and even borrow wheelchairs, walkers, and other medical supplies from Better Health’s 1,000+ donated items.
Dedicated to patients of all ages, Better Health also helps families with children who are significantly obese create a wellness program. The entire family attends the program together. By providing a safe outlet where children can become physically fit and adopt more healthy lifestyle habits, the entire family learns better health and fitness.
“I wear many, many hats.”
On any given day, you’ll find Navejas writing or reporting on a grant, reviewing program updates from staff, managing the organization’s financials, and of course lots of meetings—board meetings, committee meetings, fundraising meetings, community meetings.
But she hadn’t always planned on becoming a nonprofit CEO. A law school graduate, Navejas switched careers after the birth of her first child.
“To be a great attorney you have to bring home boxes and boxes of files every night and pour over them to prepare for court. I watched my firm’s senior partners arrive before all the other staff and leave well after dark. I wouldn’t want to do that any other way in order to be completely prepared for clients. After my daughter was born, I realized that schedule wasn’t conducive to the kind of family life that I wanted to have.”
From a young age, Navejas’ parents and grandparents instilled in her a passion for helping others. She followed that passion to Carolina Collaborative Community Care, and when the opportunity at Better Health came up, she jumped on it.
“I love it here. There are always challenges and I love working through hurdles, making progress, and finding creative solutions. Sometimes a client walks through our doors, deeply in need, and they don’t expect us to be able to help because everyone else they’ve gone to has said no. We try to find a way to say yes, not a reason to say no. The relief I see on their face when I tell them they’ll be taken care of is all the motivation I need.”
Passion for the mission
When it comes to leading a nonprofit, Navejas relies on her small but mighty staff. The single most critical factor she looks for in a team member is someone who has that passion and that connection with the mission.
“It’s all about finding the right people. If someone has the passion and the work ethic, they can be trained and do well. Being such a small organization, that makes a big difference. Our staff has made a huge impact. Better Health excels at what we do because our staff is so dedicated.”
Women in Philanthropy is an ongoing blog series in celebration of Women’s History Month, featuring some of the incredible women Network for Good has the pleasure to work with.