Even after 10 years at this job, I’ve given up guessing on what type of challenge rural North Carolina might face next. In December 2016, I was asked by legislative leaders and Governor McCrory’s office if Golden LEAF could administer state hurricane recovery funds. We had never ventured into disaster relief, but it was clear that Hurricane Matthew had devastating effects on the very communities that Golden LEAF was created to serve.
We could not let a natural disaster become an economic disaster.
I am very proud of the efforts that Golden LEAF Board and staff made to quickly partner with local governments and nonprofits to move funds out for infrastructure and business working capital. But Matthew was not our only nemesis, for our work was just winding down on that storm when Florence hit our shores and river basins with Noah-level flooding.
We then had experience with disaster recovery, aware that we would likely be called upon to help local governments afford unmet demand for repair or replacement of infrastructure, or business loan capital through experienced nonprofits. What I did not know is that Governor Cooper’s staff would call on Golden LEAF to administer privately raised funds for immediate relief efforts in the hurricane zone. This was the first time we were asked to use private donations – not tobacco settlement nor government funds – to meet immediate needs – such as home repair, appliance replacement, assistance with utilities. It’s incredibly important work, but outside of our previous experience.
The Hurricane Florence Relief Fund has provided funds to serve more than 2,000 households accounting for more than 7,000 people in 24 counties. More than 330 homes have been repaired through these efforts. This issue includes articles about a few of the grantees that are on the front lines of relief. It’s inspirational to hear their stories, and help them in some small way.
Relief, first. Then recovery. And then economic growth and development.
That’s the path for rural North Carolina. We are glad to play our part.