LUMBERTON — More than $3 million is coming to Robeson County to fund Hurricane Matthew recovery efforts, with the biggest chunk going to the county schools.
The Golden LEAF Foundation board of directors on Thursday awarded two grants — $2.6 million to the Public Schools of Robeson County and $405,395 to the Pine Terrace Volunteer Fire Department.
The grant money to the schools will be used to replace vehicles and equipment that was damaged or destroyed when the district’s central office and adjoining buildings were inundated with floodwaters resulting from the hurricane that swept through the area on Oct. 8, 2016.
“The $2.6 million is very much needed money to repair our school system that was so heavily damaged,” said Bo Biggs, a Lumberton businessman who sits on Golden LEAF’s governing board. “I’m very happy and well pleased with the grant money we have received.”
As of late Thursday, most school board members contacted by The Robesonian had not heard about the grant.
“Anytime we can get some money, that’s great,” said Dwayne Smith, a member of the school board. “I’m glad the Golden LEAF Foundation saw our need for help.”
Board member Mike Smith said he is “very appreciative” of Golden LEAF’s support of the school system’s recovery efforts.
“There are still a lot of needs throughout the county,” he said.
Board Chairwoman Peggy Wilkins-Chavis called news of the grant “positive.”
“Today we got the news that the Golden LEAF Foundation awarded the school district $2.6 million after we lost our vehicles and equipment in Hurricane Matthew. We are very grateful for their support as this time,” Wilkins-Chavis said. “I want to say that Dr. Wooten and the staff are doing a great job trying to find money and grants to help with the hurricane recovery and replacement of equipment.”
The grant money for the Pine Terrace Volunteer Fire Department is earmarked to help rebuild the station that was condemned as a result of flood damage and to buy a fire truck, Chief Todd Allen said.
“This grant is helping us out a lot with our financial needs,” he said. “I hope by December that we can move into the new building.”
The grant money will supplement what the department has received from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and in insurance payouts.
Allen said his small department of 25 members, located on Alamac Road, has continued to operate since the hurricane, despite losing three of its seven trucks to Hurricane Matthew.
“But we haven’t skipped a beat since the storm,” he said. “We have continued to operate as we always have.”
Dan Gerlach, executive director of the Golden LEAF Foundation, said Thursday that the money for the grants was available as a result of $30 million allocated the foundation by the state General Assembly as part of the Disaster Recovery Act of 2017. The $30 million is to be used to replace damaged and destroyed equipment and meet other needs, including construction.
“As of today, we have awarded about $16 million of the $30 million in available grant money,” he said. “The remaining $14 million will most likely be awarded the first week of December.”
Bob Shiles can be reached at 910-416-5165.