Golden LEAF holds community forum

by Contributor Reports

On Monday, March 23, 2009, at 6:00 p.m. the Golden LEAF Foundation held a public forum to discuss its Community Assistance Initiative.

Although the public was invited, almost all of the attendees were either employed by non-profit organizations, governmental agencies, or Vance-Granville Community College.

Vance County is the eleventh North Carolina county that is being targeted by Golden Leaf. The foundation has budgeted $2 million to spend with counties that are considered the most economically distressed.

The overall mission of the Golden LEAF Foundation is to promote the social welfare of North Carolina’s citizens and to receive and distribute funds for economic impact assistance to economically affected or tobacco-dependent regions of North Carolina.

Golden LEAF has several different categories in which they distribute grant funds. In general, most Golden LEAF grants are made on a statewide basis without consideration to geography. However, since 2007, Golden LEAF has earmarked funds targeted to improve the quality of life for those who live in the poorer counties. These funds are awarded to counties based on community input, community consensus, and final approval by the Golden LEAF Board of Directors.

Dan Gerlock, the President of Golden LEAF, explained that these targeted grants could be made for “water and sewer improvements, economic feasibility studies, [and] health care and education programs” as long as there was an eventual consensus among participants. Gerlock elaborated that these funds would not be awarded for the acquisition of real estate but could be used for the renovation of existing property such as tobacco warehouses and mills. Local business leader Sam Watkins, an attendee of the meeting, pointed out to the group that economic development could be a priority for these funds. Gerlock agreed with Watkins, pointing out that former Governor Mike Easley had developed the acronym for the foundation as Long-term Economic Advancement Foundation (LEAF). Gerlock noted that Golden LEAF has worked with the Embassy Foundation and Drag Racing Hall of Fame in the past.

Members of the Golden LEAF Foundation staff are scheduling a series of planning meetings to identify the most important projects to Vance County residents for funding consideration. The foundation’s stated objective is to have an open, transparent process, consensus on key issues, consensus on the process for prioritizing projects, an emphasis on action and project implementation, and to leverage community investments in planning and development of ongoing relationships. All grant payments will be made to programs through 501(c)3 or government agencies based on community priorities. The public will be invited to attend these meetings.

The next meeting is scheduled for April 20, 2009, at the Vance-Granville Community College auditorium at 6:00 p.m.

For questions or requests for further information, please contact Courtney Mills or Pat Cabe by e-mail or telephone at 888.684.8404.