11/10/08 — Carver High School Alumni receive surprise $15,000 donation

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Carver High School Alumni receive surprise $15,000 donation

By Steve Herring
Published in News on November 10, 2008 1:57 PM

MOUNT OLIVE -- What Al Southerland found when he opened the envelope caused him to shout -- inside was a check for $15,000 for the Carver High School Alumni and Friends Association's building and scholarship funds.

For Southerland, the donation's message is twofold -- it speaks to how people view the association's community-based work and reinforces the old saying "you have not because you ask not."

For Tony Robertson of the Washington, DC, area and his sisters, Ella Robertson and Thelma Vaughn, both of Richmond, Va., and the rest of their family, the $15,000 is a way to remember their parents and a brother.

What makes the donation unique is that is the result of Tony Robertson talking to the friend of a friend.

The siblings, the children of the late Thelma and Lottie Vick Robertson, returned home to Mount Olive last week to meet with Southerland about the donation.

The $15,000 is actually for two alumni projects -- $10,000 for its building fund and $5,000 for its scholarship fund.

The donation for the building fund will be in memory of the late Mr. and Mrs. Robertson and the one for the scholarship fund in memory of a deceased brother, Stevie Robertson.

The $10,000 donation puts the association's building fund at $100,000, Southerland said. The association plans to build a headquarters building on a site on South Breazeale Avenue just south of the old Carver High School.

Ms. Robertson and Ms. Vaughn are graduates of Carver High School. Robertson, the youngest in the family of 11 children, attended the school until the ninth grade when it was consolidated with Southern Wayne High School at Dudley. He graduated in 1973.

Robertson, who attends the association's annual reunion each July, said he was aware of the community service performed by the organization and of Southerland's involvement.

Robertson said he is "friends with a man who is a friend" of a South Carolina native who is a self-made millionaire.

"He (millionaire) was helping people in the small town he was from until he discovered the money was not being used as intended," Robertson said. "So he was open to suggestions from my friend, and I was telling them about the school I went to and what they were trying to do and that they could use help. He said 'let's give it a shot.'"

Robertson said the friend, who wished to remain anonymous, banks with Merrill Lynch. The bank has its own foundation, so the man gave the money through the foundation for tax purposes.

Robertson contacted Southerland for information about the association.

"When I got the call, I didn't place him, but now I know him now since I have seen him," Southerland said. "I get a lot of calls from people who say they want to do things for the building fund and scholarship fund. So when he asked me if it would be OK for him to pursue it. I said sure."

"Even though we are from here, we don't have any immediate family who live here," Robertson said. "When we were coming up, the family was well-known in the community and even though we are not here, we carry Mount Olive in our hearts.

"I have heard about the good things Al was doing and we still have cousins and friends here talking about the work he is doing for the Carver Alumni Association. I knew he would put it to good use and could use it. He was skeptical, but I can understand."

Southerland said he later got a call from association treasurer Bobbie Bennett who said, "I need for you to come around here."

Southerland said that when she calls it normally means he has to take care of things that might not be pleasant.

"She had an envelope in her hands and asked, 'do you know anything about this,'" he said. "I looked at it,and I did one of my little shouts. When we are working on something and you get donations you are so thankful."

Thelma Vaughn, who is named for her father, said of the donation, "It feels great, it really does to be able to give back. I am a firm believer that it is better to give than receive and to be able to give back, especially for the younger generation, is just fantastic. To be able to do in memory of our parents makes it even better. They were a firm believers in education and so am I."

The association awards scholarships based on amount of funds available and for the past couple of years prior to this one, has awarded eight $1,000 scholarships. This past year, five were awarded for a total of $3,000.

That is a number Southerland said he would like to see increase, adding the new donation would help greatly.

"Hopefully we will get back to where we were because I like to tell people that even though we have the building project going, we still do not need to neglect those things we are known for," he said.

Southerland said the association would look at some way to acknowledge the family, possibly at the next reunion in July.

The association, organized in 1982, has close to 500 members in chapters in Mount Olive, Washington, DC, and Philadelphia.