LEAF grants come home

Published 7:40 pm Saturday, July 14, 2012

Two projects still being considered by foundation board

It began last October — community leaders from across Beaufort County working side-by-side to determine the county’s greatest needs and how residents could most benefit from an influx of cash. Eight months later, the long process has culminated in the award of $1.85 million in grants by the Golden LEAF Foundation.

The Golden LEAF Foundation board met in late June for a final review of proposals submitted by Beaufort County government and nonprofit organizations and to name recipients of the foundation’s Community Assistance Initiative grants.

Top grant-getter was Beaufort County Community College with $1 million to be used to enhance and expand the school’s Allied Health and Nursing program; the Town of Bath was awarded $250,000 to assist with a new sewer infrastructure which will double the town’s capacity and lift the current sewer moratorium in place; Bath High School Preservation will receive $250,000 for renovation work on the old Bath High School building — future home to a new and expanded Bath Library and community center; and $350,000 will go to Vidant Beaufort Hospital in Washington. In addition to $200,000 awarded to Vidant in a previous Golden LEAF grant, the combined grants will help fund a linear accelerator at the Marion L. Shepard Cancer Center.

The grant money comes from North Carolina’s share of the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement, in which the tobacco industry settled with and reimbursed 46 states for tobacco-related health care costs. Through the Golden LEAF Foundation, Tier 1 counties, especially those suffering economic decline along with the decline of the tobacco industry, are targeted as grant recipients. The current grant cycle gave Beaufort County a crack at up to $2 million in CAI grants, but it did not come without a price, according to participants in the process.

The price was the time and effort dedicated by community leaders and interested parties, who discussed and debated the county’s assets and drawbacks, where it currently weighs in on the economic scale, where it could be and how to bridge the gap between the two. Over the course of six meetings, they narrowed down the criteria against which proposals would be measured, choosing three categories (health and wellness, education and workforce development, and economic development and infrastructure) that would give Beaufort County the biggest bang for its buck — reaching and bettering the lives of as many residents as possible.

In the end, 14 proposals were submitted. A panel of nine volunteers separately read and graded each proposal, then came together to discuss their findings. In a four-hour meeting March 19, the 14 were whittled down to five. That number rose to six again when the Town of Bath and Bath High School Preservation, originally having jointly written a grant proposal, wrote two separate proposals at the recommendation of the Golden LEAF board.

Four of six projects were awarded grants in the amounts suggested by the panel.

“At its June meeting, the Golden LEAF board deferred consideration of grant proposals from the Town of Aurora for its library renovation after (Hurricane Irene) and from Metropolitan Community Health Services for a satellite clinic in Belhaven, so there could be even more grants resulting from this process when they look at these two projects at their next meeting in August,” wrote Pat Cabe, Golden LEAF Foundation’s vice president of programs, in an email.

Cabe said projects are commonly deferred when board members need additional information or a better understanding of the project is needed.

Until then, the Beaufort County award stands at $1.85 million.