Grant helps open window

Published 9:26 pm Tuesday, November 13, 2012

PotashCorp-Aurora spokesman Ray McKeithan (left), NC Beautiful President Gary Wisniewski (center) and NC Beautiful Executive Director Steve Vacendak display a ceremonial check representing the first of three $5,000 annual payments to the Windows of Opportunity grant program. (WDN Photo/Mike Voss)

NC Beautiful has plenty of grant money to distribute, but few takers are lining up for that money.
NC Beautiful wants to change that scenario.
PotashCorp-Aurora has provided NC Beautiful with more money to distribute to teachers in North Carolina schools, with that money helping to educate students about environmental issues.
During NC Beautiful’s meeting at the N.C. Estuarium in Washington on Tuesday, Ray McKeithan, public-affairs and governmental-affairs manager at PotashCorp-Aurora, announced PotashCorp-Aurora would provide $5,000 each year for a three-year period to NC Beautiful for its Windows of Opportunity grant program.
Steve Vacendak, executive director of NC Beautiful, explained the grant program.
“They are Windows of Opportunity grants that we give to teachers to put environmental projects on in their classrooms across the state of North Carolina — public or private schools, kindergarten through the 12th grade. The purpose of that is to assist teachers, to empower teachers to develop sensitivity and to care for the environment in their students,” Vacendak said.
The issue NC Beautiful faces is getting the word out that such grants are available. To that point, NC Beautiful’s board members discussed ways to let teachers and other educators know such grants are available. Board members talked about using social media platforms such as Facebook and tapping into teacher networks to spread the word about Windows of Opportunity grants.
“The issue is getting teachers involved in applying for the grants. … What we are trying to do is streamline the process so it’s more easier for them to apply for the grants and get into the application pool,” Vacendak said.
“Obviously, the teachers need help, as much help as they can get. These grants are going to enable teachers throughout the region to better educate, not only on the environment but on issues that are important to students right now,” McKeithan said about PotashCorp-Aurora helping fund the grant program. “We see this as an investment that’s going to pay dividends over decades.”
The money from PotashCorp-Aurora will go to students and teachers in five counties — Beaufort, Pamlico, Craven, Hyde and Carteret.
“It’s going to help in very many ways. First of all, it’s going to help teachers and students from the resource standpoint. It’s also going to raise our profile in this part of the area of the state. We need that,” Vacendak said. “Potash(Corp), in my visit there with, Ray was impressive because they are concerned about the environment. They are very environmentally sensitive with the way they conduct their business. It was impressive to me that a corporation of that scope and nature would care so much about the environment. It’s a natural partnership.”
Each grant is for $1,000 for use from January through June. Grants are not limited to public schools.
NC Beautiful has been part of the state’s environmental preservation community for 40 years, supporting awareness, education and beautification efforts that affect North Carolina residents’ quality of life, according to its website. Today, it concentrates on hands-on and merit-based programs designed to empower state residents to preserve the natural beauty of North Carolina.
For more information about the grant program, visit Under the “Programs” heading on the menu on the left side of the page, click on “Windows of Opportunity.”

About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

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