Gold Rush

Published 12:00 am Friday, February 29, 2008

A “Golden” day dawned in three Roanoke-Chowan area counties on Friday.

The Golden LEAF Foundation (GLF) was in the area to present over $3 million in grants that will fund six separate projects.

Bertie County celebrated a $300,000 investment that will fund Project Bright Futures, a program conducted at Bertie Middle School which will provide computers for students and technology training for county residents.

Golden LEAF officials presented three checks totaling nearly $2 million to fund a trio of Hertford County projects – New Choices, an effort by Roanoke-Chowan Hospital and their partners at the Roanoke Center and Roanoke-Chowan Community College (RCCC) to address a shortage in the number of healthcare workers; Parks and Recreation in a combined effort between the Hertford County Commissioners and the National Elks Shrine in Winton; and the highly touted Hertford County/RCCC Early College High School.

Gates County officials were on hand to receive $840,780 for two programs n a wastewater feasibility study and the renovation of the Gates County Community Center

Proud day in Bertie

“This is a proud day for us,” Bertie Middle School Principal Sandra Hardy said when welcoming a host of visiting dignitaries to her campus.

Valeria Lee, GLF President, said the group was proud to make the day special in Bertie County.

“It’s always good to get together in late February and pretend it’s Christmas,” she said.

Lee said GLF made the investment in the county because of the county’s on-going commitment to make improvements in technology.

“We want you to know we appreciate how much you are doing to improve your community,” she said.

Lee said the foundation liked two specific parts of Project Bright Futures. The first was its benefit for students and the second was the community and schools working together.

“Today we are here to bring a symbolic check to say we’re ready to invest in your community,” Lee said.

Billy Clarke, a member of the GLF Board of Directors, echoed Lee’s thoughts.

“I am delighted to be here,” he said. “Getting computers for your students to use and your community to use is something we strongly believe in.”

The foundation’s representatives then presented the ceremonial check to Bertie Commission Chairman Norman Cherry Sr., Board of Education Chairman Rickey Freeman, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Chip Zullinger and Hardy.

“It is Christmas,” Freeman said afterward. “This is an historic occasion. I want to thank Golden LEAF for their hard work for Bertie County.”

Freeman also acknowledged the members of the school district staff and others who worked to make the project happen.

Cherry said he was proud of the investment made by Golden LEAF and hoped it was the beginning of something even greater.

“We often-times feel good when people say the check is in the mail, but it’s better when they say the check is in the bank,” Cherry joked.

“We are so very, very grateful that Golden LEAF looked upon us and made this type of investment in Bertie County. We thank you.”

Dr. Zullinger said the funds provided by Golden LEAF had allowed more than three-quarters of the middle school students to have new Apple laptop computers.

“They have tremendous new connectivity that wouldn’t have been able to happen if not for the primary objective of Golden LEAF,” Dr. Zullinger said.

The superintendent said the county needed the type of investment offered by GLF and stressed the importance of continuing to work together to make future strides.

As part of the program, Lee also announced Bertie County would receive more help from Golden LEAF through the community initiative program.

Three checks presented in Hertford County

GLF officials were busy on Friday morning in Hertford County where three checks were presented. The Early College High School program received the lion’s share of the funding ($1,388,040). New Choices will benefit from the $360,000 received by that program while the Parks and Recreation project was awarded $250,000.

“I feel like I’m in a room full of friends,” Lee remarked as she addressed a large crowd gathered at RCCC. “But then again when you bring checks, you have a lot of friends.”

Lee praised Hertford County citizens and officials for coming together and having a open discussion about which programs needed priority.

“You identified your most pressing needs and then informed us of those needs,” Lee noted. “That’s what our Community Initiative Program is all about.”

Pat Cabe, GLF Vice-President, told the Hertford County crowd to expect more in the future.

“We encourage you to prioritize other needs in your county,” Cabe said. “Today is not the end, it’s just the beginning.”

Those receiving the grants were ecstatic.

“On behalf of the New Choices program, we are thrilled to receive these funds from Golden LEAF,” said Lisa Newsome, Director of Marketing and Community Relations at Roanoke-Chowan Hospital. “This money will move a lot of people forward here in our community.”

Donald Wilson of the National Elks Shrine was doubly excited, saying the GLF grant will allow the recreational complex in Winton to expand, thus opening numerous opportunities for the young people of the county.

“Our programs have always been geared towards the youth; they are our future,” Wilson said. “By involving them in recreational opportunities, it creates a positive environment from which they can grow and mature.”

The ripple effect generated by GLF’s funds to the Early College High School has the potential to touch hundreds upon hundreds of students.

“We see it as value added,” RCCC President Dr. Ralph Soney said. “This money ($1.3 million) may not sound like a lot in Raleigh or Charlotte, but it is a whole lot of money in Hertford County. Golden LEAF tore down a huge barrier for us, the financial barrier. Now we can do this right and do it well.”

Hertford County Schools Superintendent Dr. Mike Basham praised the cooperation between the school district and RCCC. He signaled out the efforts of Jo Ann Jones as well as singing the praises of Teresa Harrington-Vaughan who will serve as principal of the Early College High School.

“We are on a five-year budget with this program,” Dr. Basham said. “We will be conservative with these funds, but aggressive when it comes to educating our young people.”

Howard Hunter III, chairman of the Hertford County Commissioners, concluded the ceremony by extending heartfelt thanks to GLF.

“Thank you for believing in making the men and women in our community stronger,” Hunter said. “Thank you for giving our children the recreational outlet that will deter them from negative influences. And thank you for allowing us to provide more academic options for our students so they can have an even greater opportunity to go to college or be prepared to start their careers once they graduate.”

Gates County benefits from two grants

Friday afternoon at the Gates County Community Center, the GLF presented two checks to representatives of Gates County.

The first of the checks, presented to Commission Chairman J.S. Pierce in the amount of $60,000, is intended to fund a waste water feasibility study.

This study will assess possible locations for wastewater treatment and disposal facilities in the county.

The larger of the two checks, in the amount of $780,780, will repair, renovate and expand the Gates County Community Center, located adjacent to Gates County High School.

“This is a wonderful gift to the county; this building is used by lots of people in the county across many age groups,” Pierce said. “And the wastewater study will allow us to attract industry to our county.”

Lee commented that Gates County is wealthy in terms of people and resources, but sufficient capital is lacking.

“We want to celebrate what you have been doing as a community. Calling it Christmas might not be a bad idea; we want to celebrate your good work,” Lee commented.