The Golden LEAF Foundation Celebrates 20 Years

Foundation funds help create jobs, increase payroll, and train workers across the state

On December 4th the Golden LEAF Foundation celebrated two decades of service in rural North Carolina. Current and former Board, staff, grantees, partner organizations along with State and Local officials gathered to recognize this milestone.

Golden LEAF’s current Board members were joined by many of the former Board members at the Golden LEAF Foundation 20th Anniversary event.

The event featured a brief program with first-hand stories from grant recipients sharing how Golden LEAF funding has supported their communities and provided scholarships. It also featured a new video of the Foundation – capturing our history and vision moving into the next phase of state service. Click here to view the video.

Golden LEAF’s mission is to increase the economic well being of North Carolina’s rural and tobacco dependent communities. The LEAF in Golden LEAF stands for Long-Term Economic Advancement Foundation. For 20 years, Golden LEAF has strived to meet that description coined in 1999 when state leaders created the Foundation from the funds received from North Carolina’s portion of the Master Settlement Agreement with cigarette manufacturers.

To date, the Golden LEAF Foundation has awarded 1,805 projects across the state totaling $888 million to help create more than 64,000 jobs, support almost $700 million in new payroll and help train over 77,000 workers across the state.

All of Golden LEAF’s staff attended the 20th Anniversary event as well as many former staff members.

“The Foundation helps move rural communities toward economic vitality – to provide a better future for its residents,” said Scott T. Hamilton, Golden LEAF President. “There is no question that the Foundation has provided a lasting impact on tobacco-dependent, economically distressed, and rural parts of the state as intended.”

For the past two decades, the Foundation has funded projects focused on the most critical issues facing the state’s rural communities including adapting and improving agricultural practices, boosting job creation opportunities and preparing the local workforce for new industries and jobs. Golden LEAF has supported economic vitality through building infrastructure throughout rural North Carolina – not only with physical infrastructure projects like water systems, broadband internet access and helping communities rebuild after hurricanes; but also by investing in the state’s workforce.

One way the Foundation builds the rural workforce is through our scholarship program. Gayla Olvera of Wilson is a Golden LEAF Scholarship recipient and recent graduate of the University of Mount Olive.  Olvera shared her story at the recent 20th Anniversary event.

Golden LEAF Scholarship Alumna Gayla Olvera spoke about the importance of the Golden LEAF Scholarship Program at the Foundation’s 20th Anniversary event.

“Thanks to the Golden LEAF Scholarship, I was able to achieve my dreams of pursuing my bachelor’s degree in psychology,” said Olvera, a four-year Golden LEAF Scholarship alumna. “In fact, I am now working full-time where I served as an intern for three years through the leadership program. Pride in North Carolina, LLC, where I interned, wanted to hire me so much so that they said they would create a position for me.”

The Golden LEAF Scholarship Program has provided $47 million in scholarships for more than 20,000 rural students to attend state universities and community colleges over two decades.

“There is truly no better investment in rural communities than creating a future generation of skilled, educated workers to come back home to live, work and raise families,” said Hamilton. “I eagerly look forward to working with our state’s organizations and communities in the years ahead as we continue to provide funding for the tools needed to help our communities thrive for future generations.”

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