LUMBERTON — More grant money is available to assist Hurricane Matthew recovery projects in Robeson County.
That was the message given Tuesday to members of the Lumberton Rotary Club by the man who leads the foundation that already has directed almost $8 million into the county for recovery efforts.
“Our mission is to get communities back to where they were before the storm,” said Dan Gerlach, president of North Carolina’s Golden LEAF Foundation. “The General Assembly has given us the job of helping communities to get back on their feet as fast as possible.”
Gerlach was the keynote speaker at the Rotary Club’s meeting at the Village Station restaurant in Lumberton. Among the crowd at the event were elected officials, business and education leaders, and representatives of nonprofits, most of whom came to find out what additional assistance might be coming down the pike from Golden LEAF or to shake hands and thank Gerlach for the foundation’s help.
Bo Biggs, a Rotarian, Lumberton businessman and one of Golden LEAF 15 board members, was also in attendance.
The foundation will begin awarding grants again beginning Thursday, Gerlach said.
“We currently have $55 million available to work with,” he said.
The Golden LEAF Foundation was established in 1999 by the N.C. General Assembly to administer one-half of North Carolina’s share of the Master Settlement Agreement between North Carolina and cigarette manufacturers in accordance with the court consent decree between the state and manufacturers.
According to the foundation’s website, projects receiving grants from Golden LEAF focus on three priorities: agriculture, job creation and retention, and workforce preparedness.
Gerlach said the General Assembly overall has provided Golden LEAF with $55 million to help North Carolina counties devastated by the flooding caused by Hurricane Matthew in October.
Of the $20 million provided Golden LEAF by the General Assembly in 2016, Robeson County has received $7.8 million to fund infrastructure and other projects, Gerlach said. Another $30 million, allocated by the General Assembly to Golden LEAF in 2017, has not yet been awarded.
Gerlach said Golden LEAF grants are primarily used as supplemental funding for projects that are not fully funded by federal money.
Grants awarded to Robeson County have funded a major drainage project in Lumberton’s Tanglewood community, work in the public school system, and repairs or construction of new buildings in Lumberton.
Since Golden LEAF has been in business more than 1,400 grants totaling $746 million have been awarded statewide, according to Biggs.
Biggs praised Golden LEAF for what it has done to help North Carolina counties and communities suffering economically because of the loss of tobacco.
“My two years on the board has been a real eye-opener to what Golden LEAF does,” he said.
Bob Shiles can be reached at 910-416-5165.