03/12/12 — Organizations can get information on Golden LEAF

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Organizations can get information on Golden LEAF

By Steve Herring
Published in News on March 12, 2012 1:46 PM

A group of Wayne County residents Tuesday night will continue its efforts to identify community-based projects in hopes of qualifying for a portion of the $2 million that the Golden LEAF Foundation has reserved for the county.

The meeting will be held from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. in the Walnut Building, Room 101 at Wayne Community College.

It will be the third meeting the group has held since January and it will require at least one more before a short list of projects is ready, said Pat Cabe, foundation vice president of programs/community assistance and outreach.

Golden LEAF funds come from the tobacco buyout and settlement reached several years ago between the government and the tobacco companies. A portion of the money paid out by the companies was set aside to boost economic development and quality of life in the state. The foundation was created to distribute the money.

The first meeting laid the groundwork for the foundation's Community Assistance Initiative, which will guide Golden LEAF officials in distributing the money. The second meeting last was held month was to identify issues that committee members felt face the county and that could be addresses by specific projects.

Members came up with almost 100 issues in the areas of economic development and infrastructure, education and workforce development, health and wellness, community, cultural and people services and youth services and opportunities.

Those areas include familiar topics like unemployment, tourism, loss of farmland, better jobs -- particularly to keep the county's young people here -- support of the arts, improving literacy and health care.

They came up with a like number of assets and community strengths including a strong sense of community and a wealth of volunteers, 4-H Scouts, Boys and Girls Clubs.

Members represent local government, civic, education, church and other local residents.

The meetings are open to the public and people who did not attend the other two meetings are still welcome, Ms. Cabe said. However, once the process nears completion, there will be no "backtracking" either, she said.

"This group is moving at a pretty good clip," she said. "It will take about three more meetings. I think the Wayne County folks are working well together. There are way more needs and things to be done than the budget available.

"I think what we want to do now is narrow that list of key issues down to about two or three key issues to focus on and the look at outcome success measures. Once we have that in place it becomes funding priorities."

It is important for local officials to look at sustainability -- how a project will fare once the grant money is used -- and how well local leaders will be able to obtain other funding, such as local matches, Ms. Cabe said.

The local group will submit a list of proposals to the foundation for review. Once that review is completed, foundation officials will go over the results of that review with those attending the meetings.

Next, a local review committee will be appointed to select the final projects to be submitted to the foundation board, which will make the final decision.

Once the projects are approved, the grants will be distributed directly to the organizations that will be held accountable for how the money is spent, she said.

Applicants must be either a government entity or a 501-c3 nonprofit organization. Projects for private benefit will not be consider, Ms. Cabe said. Normally, the grants are not awarded for the purchase of land or buildings, reimbursement for prior expenditures or for capital campaigns or to build endowments.

The foundation is targeting 46 counties in the state that are currently, or have been a Tier 1 county at some point since 2007. The state annually ranks the state's 100 counties based on economic well-being and assigns each a Tier designation. The 40 most distressed counties are Tier 1, the next 40 Tier 2 and the 20 least distressed Tier 3. Wayne County had been a Tier 1 county, but has been moved to Tier 2.