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LEAF Lines - Summer 2014

Golden LEAF awards 14 grants totaling more than $9.6 million in first round of regional initiative
10 counties receive funding in northeastern NC

At the June 2014 Golden LEAF Board of Directors meeting, the Foundation awarded 14 Community-Based Grantsmaking Initiative (CBGI) grants totaling more than $9.6 million to organizations in 10 northeastern NC counties.

The CBGI is a new, competitive initiative that focuses on grantsmaking by region. Last September, 21 counties in the northeastern part of NC were invited to submit proposals for this initiative.

The organizations that ultimately were awarded grants for their projects were located in Edgecombe, Halifax, Hyde, Martin, Nash, Perquimans, Pitt, Tyrrell, Warren and Wilson counties. These projects will provide workforce training, education, economic development, infrastructure, and healthcare in northeastern NC. Click here for a list of grants awarded in the first round of the CBGI.

One of the projects that received funding is a $1.25 million grant to East Carolina University for the "Advanced Manufacturing and Innovation Academy." This is a collaborative project serving middle school students in 13 schools in Pitt County, P.S. Jones Middle School in Beaufort County and North East Carolina Preparatory School in Edgecombe County.

On June 16, 2014, Golden LEAF President Dan Gerlach and Golden LEAF Board members Tom Taft and Lawrence Davenport joined with officials from East Carolina University and Pitt County to announce the Golden LEAF CBGI grant to East Carolina University (ECU).

Pictured are Dan Gerlach, Golden LEAF President (at podium), and Golden LEAF Board member Lawrence Davenport (right) at a press conference in Greenville announcing the Golden LEAF CBGI grant to ECU.

The project will create an education-to-workforce pipeline that addresses the growing skills gap experienced by eastern NC advanced manufacturing workers and businesses. The technical skills needed for this work include the study of science, technology, engineering, art/design and mathematics (STEAM), as well as innovation and entrepreneurial processes.

The Advanced Manufacturing and Innovation Academy is the result of a unique collaboration among middle school parents, students and teachers, East Carolina University, Pitt Community College, Pitt County Schools, North East Carolina Preparatory School, P.S. Jones Middle School, STEM East, economic developers and regional advanced manufacturers.

"The 'Advanced Manufacturing and Innovation Academy' hits the sweet spot of the Foundation and the Community-Based Grantsmaking Initiative by focusing on preparing a workforce for jobs available in the region," said Dan Gerlach, Golden LEAF President. "This project will provide a pipeline of workers that will be ready to meet the skill demands of this region's employers."

Grants awarded through the CBGI are limited to projects that address agriculture, education, workforce development, infrastructure, and health care infrastructure. The CBGI is a new initiative that was launched in the summer of 2013 in northeastern NC as a continuation of the Foundation's efforts to assist with rural economic transition and as a continuation of the strategy of the former Community Assistance Initiative. The Initiative will expand to all regions in the state over a four-year period.


Golden LEAF awards $12,000 scholarships to
215 rural NC students to attend four-year colleges

Scholars also eligible for an additional $10,000 through
four-year leadership program

In April 2014, 215 students from 60 rural NC counties were selected to receive Golden LEAF Scholarships for the 2014-2015 school year. Students are eligible to receive up to $12,000 over four years for college. In April, May and June 2014, Golden LEAF Board and staff members personally handed out more than 160 scholarship certificates to students across the state. These students are also eligible to take part in a leadership program that can provide up to an additional $10,000 over four years through participating in leadership training and internships.

Six students from Caldwell Early College High School were awarded Golden LEAF Scholarships by Golden LEAF President Dan Gerlach (center) on May 12, 2014. The scholars are (from left) Tyler Bryant, John Herman, Katheryn Minton, Kelsey Toliver, Desmond Johnson, and Bryson Greer.

"The Golden LEAF Board of Directors has proudly awarded more than $27 million to assist over 10,000 students from families in rural communities to attend college since 2000," said Dan Gerlach, Golden LEAF president. "The Golden LEAF Scholarship is one of the many tools we have to help fulfill our purpose of growing North Carolina's rural economy."

Dan Gerlach (center) attended Craven Early College High School's awards ceremony on Friday, May 26, 2014 to hand out certificates to the school's four Golden LEAF Scholars: (from left) Shawnee Martinez, Laura Harris, Gentri Pitts and Alexis Crump.

Scholarship recipients can attend participating North Carolina institutions, including UNC system universities and NC's private, nonprofit institutions. High school seniors or community college transfer students who plan to attend a participating college or university, reside in a qualifying county and demonstrate financial need are eligible to apply for scholarship assistance. A strong emphasis is placed on a well-written essay including how the student will support rural communities upon graduation.

On May 14, 2014, Dan Gerlach (center) met with six students from the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics that will attend college with a Golden LEAF Scholarship: (from left) Ugochi Nwamara from Pasquotank County, Elarnta Darden from Northampton County, Ga Gao from Sampson County, Addie Jackson from Warren County, Ashleigh Cleveland from Currituck County, and Jumangie Smith from Halifax County.

The application for the 2015-2016 school year is expected to be posted in early December 2014 at with the deadline for applications on March 1, 2015.

The Golden LEAF Scholarship program for four-year colleges and universities is administered through the North Carolina State Education Assistance Authority. You can read more about the Golden LEAF Scholarship program by clicking here or visiting

"Through this scholarship, students will gain valuable knowledge and skills," Gerlach said. "Our hope is that they will return to their hometowns or other rural areas to help our communities prosper."

One way that the Foundation hopes to help foster students' interest in their home communities is through a leadership program that Golden LEAF offers exclusively to its scholars. The Golden LEAF Scholars Leadership Program is funded by Golden LEAF and administered by the Center for Creative Leadership. The 2014-2015 leadership program will be the fifth year this program has been offered to Golden LEAF Scholarship recipients.

Nursing majors at ECU, (from left) Kayla Norris, rising junior; Skyler Kennemur, rising senior; and Madison Kennemur, rising senior, are completing their Golden LEAF Scholars Leadership Program internships at Vidant Medical Center in Greenville, NC. These aspiring nurses were excited to see that Golden LEAF also supports healthcare projects.

The program includes two leadership conferences, where students gain valuable leadership and workforce skills. Coaches are assigned to freshmen and sophomore scholars. The coaches help with goal setting and securing a summer internship in the scholar's field of interest in their home county or another approved rural NC county. These students earn $2,500 per year of participation for completing all of the aspects of the program. Each year of the program focuses on a different approach to help the scholars develop leadership talent, connect to rural communities and stay focused on their career goals.


Golden LEAF supports Cleveland County
job creation
Two grants totaling $1.8 million result in over 375 jobs, 60 new jobs on the horizon

In June 2010, the Golden LEAF Foundation awarded two grants to organizations from Cleveland County totaling $1.8 million. These projects have assisted with the creation of over 375 jobs and have the possibility of resulting in 60 more.

Golden LEAF awarded a $996,107.50 Economic Catalyst grant to Cleveland County to support the recruitment of Clearwater Paper, which pledged to create 250 jobs. The Foundation also awarded a $838,756.68 Community Assistance Initiative grant to the City of Shelby for the construction of a job-ready shell building.

The Economic Catalyst grant allowed the county to purchase an industrial printer to lease at fair market value to Clearwater Paper, a manufacturer of private label tissue products for major retailers and wholesale distributors. Clearwater Paper pays its lease payments to the County, which in turn can use those funds to support other permissible economic activity.

So far, Cleveland County has used portions of the lease payments to purchase land to expand the Washburn Switch Industrial Park and pay for road access into the park.

"The Golden LEAF grant was the clincher in landing Clearwater," said David Dear, Cleveland County Manager. "Clearwater was also considering locating in Georgia. We needed something else to close the deal and the equipment grant met that need."

The company has found that the local workforce has met their hiring needs. As of the second quarter of 2014, the company has created 261 jobs.

"Seventy-five percent of the workforce has come from Cleveland County and the remaining from surrounding counties," said Dear. "The turnover rate is extremely low – a single digit turn over."

Clearwater Paper has hired employees in and around Cleveland County.

Clearwater Paper has also been a good fit for the community, according to Dear. One way the company has helped the area retool its hiring practices.

"The company has developed a hiring model that they used to screen potential workers at the Cleveland County plant," said Dear. "Clearwater was gracious in sharing the employment model with other companies in the community. Our community college has taken the model, tweaked it and is now using it for all our major employers."

Cleveland County is landing other new companies as well. The shell building provided through a Golden LEAF grant and targeted marketing helped attract Schletter, Inc., a manufacturer of solar mounting systems for residential, commercial, and utility-scale photovoltaic applications. Schletter bought and expanded the shell building and created 130 new jobs. Now, Schletter's US headquarters is located in Shelby.

On October 14, 2011, Golden LEAF President Dan Gerlach (center) cuts the ribbon at the City of Shelby's shell building.

When the City of Shelby sold the shell building to Schletter, it used the money from the sale to construct a second shell building. Dear said, the City is in the process of closing on the sale of the second building to a company that will create another 60 jobs. The City plans to use funds from that sale toward construction of a third facility.


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Call Golden LEAF to discuss project ideas at 888.684.8404 (ask for a program officer) or e-mail

Message from the
Dan Gerlach

Dan Gerlach

As the end of summer approaches, we at Golden LEAF are excited about the opportunities before us to build economic opportunity, both in the short and long-term.

In this issue of LEAF Lines, you may read about our major grants initiative aimed squarely at the sweet spot of supporting human, financial and physical infrastructure, a precondition to economic growth and development, in Northeast North Carolina. I am looking forward to our upcoming work in the Sandhills and Northwest prosperity zone - 20+ counties with their own challenges and strengths - to build on the success of this regional, competitive program for projects of significant size.

While the northeastern grants are newly awarded, the story of Montgomery County's priority to stabilize its water system reminds us all of the precariousness of rural life and the need to invest strongly and smartly to ensure an environment for companies to begin, expand and even relocate to communities all across North Carolina.

Though investing in steel and concrete is important, we cannot fail to invest in our human capital as well. This issue contains an in-depth story on the Foundation's longstanding tradition of awarding financial aid for students from rural counties, and Golden LEAF's more recent strategy of providing the chance for leadership development and internships in rural communities as well. Read about Melissa Sawyer as an example of such a scholar. Find out why we believe that Melissa and her colleagues will be future leaders and assets to North Carolina.

But will these investments make a difference in the real goals - more jobs, more private capital investment, greater income and wealth? Of course they will. But focus and drive are needed.

Cleveland County, long challenged with significant losses of traditional North Carolina manufacturing jobs, has been aggressive in its pursuit of advanced manufacturers. Learn about its success in facilitating the location of Clearwater Paper and Schletter, Inc. to its industrial sites. Golden LEAF played a role in these developments, and I am proud of that partnership.

Rural and tobacco-dependent areas of North Carolina can and will compete globally. In our role as steward of the Master Settlement Agreement funds, Golden LEAF will do all it can to support developing and creating North Carolina talent, growing the physical infrastructure, and closing gaps needed to bring jobs and private capital to all areas of our state.


Dan Gerlach can be contacted by
e-mail at


Golden LEAF supports critical infrastructure improvements for Montgomery County
Raw water bank project provides reliable water intake system

In August 2011, Golden LEAF awarded a $498,750 grant from the Community Assistance Initiative to Montgomery County to stabilize the seawall, support intake manifolds, and replace vacuum lines at the Montgomery County Water System's raw water intake station. The County's water system serves approximately 20,000 customers and sources its water from Lake Tillery. The system was in critical need of upgrades that are now nearly complete.

"The Montgomery County Water System had major infrastructure issues involving all three aspects of water delivery," said Chris Hildreth, Montgomery County Public Utilities Director. "The intake, treatment and pumping systems were all in critical need of upgrades."

Golden LEAF's grant is helping the County provide a stable water intake system. The County and other funding sources paid for the repairs for the other two systems. All three systems are on schedule to be completed in the next few months.

Much of the work to Montgomery County's raw water bank involved construction under water.

"The county has needed an upgraded and dependable water system for some time," said Hildreth. "Without a dependable water supply, which this project supports, no businesses would be able to operate or maintain jobs in the area."

In fact, the County had two different occasions in which a failure in the pumping system caused its service area to be without water for 12-hour periods, shutting down businesses and disrupting household water service, said Montgomery County Manager Matthew Woodard.

The fabric-formed concrete seawall was shearing off and sliding into the water, endangering the intake piping supports, said Hildreth. The vacuum system that is used to prime the system during times of low lake levels was also in very poor condition and inaccessible for repair.

The Montgomery County Water System's fabric-formed concrete seawall was failing.

"It was conceivable that the County would have been rendered incapable of pulling water in from Lake Tillery had we not been able to fix the raw water bank," said Hildreth. "The major risk was that the water system could be down for days, not hours, keeping our customers without water."

The Golden LEAF grant provided much needed funding to help with infrastructure built to last. The new system was designed for ease of maintenance and repairs.

Workers inspect the new rip-rap seawall.

Now that the water system is designed to be reliable, Woodard said he is looking forward to what's to come for Montgomery County.

"We are grateful to the Golden LEAF Foundation for providing the funding for infrastructure we needed to help move the County forward," said Woodard. "With this vital infrastructure in place and our location between Charlotte, the Research Triangle, and Fayetteville, our County is in a great position to house commuters and bring in more manufacturers and businesses."


Golden LEAF Scholar completes internship as ACT prep teacher
NCSU's A.S.P.I.R.E. program gives rural students tools for greater access to college

In 2012, Melissa Sawyer, a Golden LEAF Scholarship recipient and participant in the Golden LEAF Scholars Leadership Program (GLSLP), taught an ACT preparation course to seven sophomores and juniors in Camden County.

Melissa Sawyer, Golden LEAF Scholar, served as an A.S.P.I.R.E. teacher in Camden County in 2012.

Sawyer is attending Elizabeth City State University and is an aspiring math teacher. As a part of the GLSLP, students must complete a six-week internship in their home county or another rural county in a field related to their career choice.

Sawyer found a unique fit for her internship goals by serving as an instructor for North Carolina State University's A.S.P.I.R.E. (ACT Supplemental Preparation in Rural Education) program. The A.S.P.I.R.E. program is also a Golden LEAF-funded program that has been funded in part through two grants totaling $263,268.

As only a sophomore in college, Sawyer was appreciative of the opportunity to complete a practical teaching experience.

"The A.S.P.I.R.E. program gave me the amazing opportunity of having my own classroom, a dream of any student who wants to be a teacher," said Sawyer. "It helped to validate my career choice as I saw the amazing progress that my students were making."

She was able help all of her students raise their scores.

"I did have one student that increased scores by 12 points, but on average, the students increased six to seven points," said Sawyer. "This is still a major increase for the ACT, since the scores only range from a 1-36. It is much different than the SAT, where one point doesn't matter that much."

Students enrolled in the A.S.P.I.R.E. program learn from instructors, like Sawyer, who are trained by the Princeton Review. They also receive the Princeton Review ACT course materials, four ACT full-length practice exams with score analysis and breakdown, Princeton Review selective college admissions booklet, and 30 hours of class time instruction where students learn test-taking skills.

"I have never heard of such a hands-on teaching experience before," said Sawyer. "The A.S.P.I.R.E. program is another unbelievable benefit of the Golden LEAF Foundation."

Upon graduation, Sawyer plans to teach high school in Pasquotank County.

The A.S.P.I.R.E. program was designed to assist students especially interested in agriculture-related majors, but participation is not limited to those students. Any high school sophomore or junior in the rural counties, in which the program is offered, may register for the A.S.P.I.R.E. program. Click here to view counties with A.S.P.I.R.E. agents.

Beaufort County is another county that offers the A.S.P.I.R.E. program. Pictured are students from the county attending a session taught at Washington High School.


Golden LEAF News Links

Golden LEAF News

Golden LEAF News - March 2014

Golden LEAF News - Feb 2014

Golden LEAF News - Jan 2014

Golden LEAF News - Dec 2013

Golden LEAF News - Nov 2013

Golden LEAF News - Oct 2013

Golden LEAF News - Aug 2013

Golden LEAF News - July 2013

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LEAF Lines - past editions archive


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