This month, we send our heartfelt sympathies to those affected by Hurricane Dorian. We know all too well the damage that hurricane force winds and flooding can cause. It was one year ago this month that our state suffered the damage from Hurricane Florence, and much of southeastern North Carolina is still recovering from that storm.
In this edition of Golden LEAF News, we feature some of those who have worked to provide relief to victims of Hurricane Florence. In 1999, following Hurricane Floyd, Governor Hunt established the North Carolina Hurricane Relief Fund to raise funds to assist victims of the disaster. Governor Cooper activated the fund to help provide relief from Hurricane Florence. The Golden LEAF Foundation administered the North Carolina Hurricane Florence Disaster Relief Fund, and through the Fund, Golden LEAF has made $5.4 million in grants to organizations that provide survivors of Hurricane Florence with home repair or temporary housing, utility and rental assistance, and replacement of personal property such as clothing, tools and equipment. I hope you find stories of their work as inspiring as I have.
The past few weeks have included several other important activities for the Foundation. North Carolina State University hosted a groundbreaking event for the Plant Sciences Initiative. The PSI will bring engineers, biologists, crop and soil scientists, plant breeders and researchers from other disciplines under one roof in a new state-of-the-art facility on NC State’s Centennial Campus to create new opportunities for North Carolina farmers and to find solutions to global challenges facing agriculture. Golden LEAF Board Chair Randy Isenhower spoke on behalf of the Foundation at the event, which was also attended by North Carolina agricultural leaders, legislators and educators. Golden LEAF is the largest private funder of the project.
Over Labor Day weekend, I had the chance to attend the Golden LEAF Scholars Leadership Program conference. There I met and talked to many of our Golden LEAF Scholarship recipients who are in various years of undergraduate studies. Although they have many different majors and career paths and go to different North Carolina schools, they all come from rural North Carolina. The program also provides the students with summer internships in a rural community. This edition of Golden LEAF News features Robynique Willis-Brown, a graduate of ECU with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Social Work. She was recently hired at one of the sites at which she had an internship during her time as a Golden LEAF Scholar.
Speaking of students from rural communities, I also had the chance to attend the opening of the new multi-grade school in Jones County. This was the first school built in the county in more than 50 years. Much of the funding for the school came from the Public School Capital Fund created by the North Carolina General Assembly in 2017.
Golden LEAF supported this effort with a grant for technology infrastructure in the school. Students and parents in Jones County, which is still recovering from Hurricane Florence, were excited to witness this great symbol of progress and perseverance in their county.
Finally, earlier this month the Golden LEAF Board selected Scott T. Hamilton to be the third president of Golden LEAF. Scott will join the Foundation from the Appalachian Regional Commission, where he currently serves as Executive Director. The story in this issue about Scott’s selection contains more information about his background and his prior work in economic development in North Carolina.
As we await Scott joining our staff in Rocky Mount in the near future, I look forward to staying connected to you as the Golden LEAF Foundation continues to work for rural North Carolina communities.
Ted Lord, Acting President