NCDA Specialty Crop Block Grant Application Period Open Now Through Mar. 4 At Noon

The N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is accepting grant applications for the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program. Nonprofits and government agencies have until noon on Mar. 4 to submit applications.

Applicants can submit a draft application for staff review by Jan. 26 to gain feedback on their grant proposals. A .pdf of the draft application should be sent to

The Specialty Crop Block Grant Program aims to enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops in the marketplace. It is managed by the department, through funding by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“In 2021, we awarded $2.9 million for 16 projects across the state, which included one-time funds of $1.6 million from the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021. We anticipate $1.2 million in funding this year,” said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. “The success and growth of specialty crops are important as North Carolina agriculture continues to diversify and as the industry inches closer to the $100 billion mark in economic impact.”

The department will accept grant requests up to $200,000 from nonprofit organizations, academia, commodity associations, state and local government agencies, colleges and universities. Grants are not available for projects that directly benefit or provide a profit to a single organization, institution or individual.

Eligible projects must involve fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, culinary herbs and spices, medicinal plants, nursery, floriculture or horticulture crops.

For grant guidelines and an application, go to For questions, contact Jenni Keith at 919.707.3158 or

Franklin County Logo

Hicks named Public Information Officer/Grants Admin for Franklin Co.

According to a press release from Franklin County: James Franklin Hicks, III will begin serving Franklin County Government as Public Information Officer/Grants Administrator on January 24. Among his duties he will conduct professional public relations work including maintaining relationships with media entities, preparing press releases, facilitating website updates and supporting the administration of grants.

“I’m excited to join Franklin County and work with the county manager on developing new ways of delivering quality content and information to the citizens of the county,” Hicks said. “I believe Franklin County is in a position to do great things and I am excited to get started.”

Hicks comes to the county from the City of Creedmoor where he served as city clerk and public information officer. Hicks, a native of Greenville, S.C., earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications from the University of South Carolina Upstate in 2009 and a Master of Science degree in Media Management from Arkansas State University in 2019.

Prior to working in Creedmoor, Hicks spent a year and a half as a local government reporter for the (Greenwood) Index-Journal, a daily newspaper in Greenwood, S.C., where he garnered a statewide first place award in enterprise reporting from the S.C. Press Association for his coverage of economic development.

Prior to his work as a reporter, Hicks served for nearly a decade as a magistrate judge for Greenville County, S.C. He is an active member of the N.C. Association of Government Information Officers and is the outgoing chair of the Mass Communication division of the Southern States Communication Association. Hicks moved to North Carolina with his wife, Marie — who is a registered nurse at Duke University Hospital — and their two-and a-half-year-old St. Berdoodle, Riversong. For additional information, please contact Kim Denton, Franklin County Manager, at (919) 496-5994

Triangle North Grant Cycle Open For 2022; Deadline To Submit Letters Of Interest Mar. 1

Triangle North Healthcare Foundation has announced the launch of its 2022 grant cycle, and is accepting letters of interest through March 1, 2022.

Nonprofit organizations, government agencies and schools are eligible to apply for funding projects that will provide positive impact in one or more of the five focus areas: Child Well-Being, Chronic Disease, Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders, Nutrition and Physical Activity, and Reproductive Health.

The link to the Foundation’s online grant portal is available at

Executive Director Val Short said funding local projects brings to life the foundation’s mission to encourage, support, and invest in quality efforts that measurably improve health in the areas it serves.

“Our hope is that the Foundation’s investment of grant funds in our communities will result in long lasting improvements in the health and wellbeing of our children and adults,” Short said in a press statement.

Since 2013, the foundation has invested more than $3.3 million in programs across the four-county region that includes Vance, Granville, Warren and Franklin.

Short and the foundation’s grants coordinator Carolyn Powell are available to discuss ideas for grant projects or to assist with grant writing.  Call 252.430.8532 to schedule an appointment.  Information about current and past funded programs and projects is also available on the website.

A regional healthcare grant-making organization based in Henderson, NC, Triangle North Healthcare Foundation was established in 2011, following the merge of Maria Parham Medical Center and Duke Lifepoint.

Franklin County Logo

Franklin County Commissioners Change Location of Meeting

Franklin County, January 4, 2022: Franklin County Commissioners will meet at a new location
beginning Tuesday, January 18, 2022. Later this month the Board will begin conducting meetings at
the new Franklin Plaza location at 279 South Bickett Boulevard in Louisburg in Training Room 102
beginning at 7pm. The Board currently conducts its meetings at 113 Market Street in Louisburg. The
schedule of regular meetings can be located at
The Franklin Plaza location offers building space and parking that will better accommodate the
meeting and serve citizens by providing the opportunity for public attendance.
For additional information, please contact Kim Denton, Franklin County Manager, at (919) 496-5994.

NCDOT Bike Helmet Program Puts Free Helmets On Kids’ Heads

The goal of the state Department of Transportation’s annual bicycle helmet initiative is to reduce bicycle injuries and deaths. Applications are available now for agencies to get up to 100 free bike helmets for young cyclists.

As part of the initiative, applicants are encouraged to partner with government and non-government agencies to host bike safety events. Examples of partners include police and fire departments, parks and recreation departments, health departments and community centers, as well as churches and other non-governmental organizations.

Applications are due by 5 p.m. on Feb. 4, 2022, according to information from NCDOT. Applicants may request 25, 50, 75 or 100 helmets and the groups awarded are scheduled to receive the helmets by April 29, 2022.

The selection process has been revised and is no longer limited to government agencies. Helmets will be awarded and distributed once per calendar year in the spring and awardees will have the remainder of the calendar year to host their safety program and then provide a report within 30 days of the event.

The program was started in 2007 and is overseen by the DOT’s integrated mobility division. Money to fund the program comes from sales of the Share The Road specialty license plate. Since its inception, the initiative has provided thousands of helmets to low-income children – more than 30,000 in the past five years alone. Statistics show that less than half of all children wear a helmet while biking, but wearing a helmet can reduce the risk of severe brain injuries by almost 90 percent for children involved in bike accidents.

About 20 bicyclists die in biking accidents each year in North Carolina – one in six of those are under the age of 16. The use of bike helmets was found to reduce head injury by 48 percent, serious head injury by 60 percent, traumatic brain injury by 53 percent, face injury by 23 percent and the total number of cyclists killed or seriously injured by 34 percent.

Visit the NCDOT Bicycle Helmet Initiative webpage for more information and to download the application.

Smart Start

TownTalk: Smart Start Year End Review

The Franklin Granville Vance Smart Start Inc. annual report has been released and the agency’s executive director said his agency and staff undoubtedly have learned how to be flexible and adaptable as it continues to advocate for children, in spite of pandemic restrictions.

In a letter accompanying the 8-page report, FGV Executive Director Dr. Tony W. Cozart said the 2020-21 year had been “difficult but very gratifying as well.”

FGV’s fiscal manager, Garry Daeke, agreed wholeheartedly. Daeke spoke with John C. Rose Tuesday on Town Talk and said he was very happy to report that, despite the difficulties of the pandemic, FGV staff had been able to maintain relationships with both child-care providers as well as parents.

“We’ve been able to keep in contact and provide service and information to people,” he said, acknowledging that the one-on-one contacts have been limited, but FGV has found ways to do an end-around some challenges.

For instance, Daeke said FGV has been able to provide technical assistance via videotape and through increased filming of sessions. By filming programs and activities, FGV staff can critique and provide suggestions to help child-care providers with everything from how to set up a classroom to being financially efficient – staying safe and healthy at the same time.

There are 112 child-care programs in the three counties that FGV serves, Daeke said. “They’ve kept people working, because people need childcare.”

The agency gets most of its funding from the state (85-90 percent), and it has spent $907,689 to help parents pay for childcare in the past year, according to the report. The subsidy is available to parents who send their children to programs with a 4- or 5-star quality rating.

“We spend a great deal of money to provide a subsidy” to parents, Daeke said. FGV also supplements wages of teachers who stay in their jobs for a certain length of time and who continue to further their education. The report notes that 80 teachers received an average of $1016 in supplements in a six-month period.

“We spend a lot of money to make sure child care is high quality and that parents are able to access that child care,” Daeke said.

A number of programs that FGV supports don’t happen within the walls of a child-care center at all; rather, there are a variety of agencies that FGV contracts with that are quite successful as well.

Vance County’s adolescent parenting program that Annie Perry oversees, for example, focuses on keeping teenage moms in school so they can graduate. Daeke said Perry, a longtime program administrator, does an excellent job and consistently has graduates go on to continue their educations at Vance-Granville Community College or four-year universities.

“The main goals are to keep them in school and to prevent a second pregnancy. The program “helps them become the parent they need to be,” Daeke said. “We’ve had a lot of success over the years.”

Other programs like Parents as Teachers is a home visitation parenting program that operates primarily in Granville County through a partnership with Granville County Public Schools. And the Incredible Years program partners with the Vance Cooperative Extension to provide several sessions each year to work directly with parents to help them “be the very best parent you can be,” Daeke said. Although only in Vance County now, Daeke said he’s looking for grant funding to expand the program to Granville County and possibly Franklin County.

And a child-care health consultant has just come on board to visit child-care programs to help providers with health concerns. FGV has contracted through the Granville-Vance Health District to provide a nurse to help child-care providers, he said.

According to the report, total FGV expenditures for FY 2021 was $3,381,751. Almost three-fourths of that funding is used to ensure the availability and accessibility of high-quality childcare for children ages 0-5 years. That is done a variety of ways, including subsidies for working families through the Department of Social Services to help pay for childcare. It also administers the NC Pre-K program in Franklin County and offers wage incentives to retain childcare workers and ensure continuity of care.

Click Play


The Local Skinny! Louisburg College Graduate with Vance Co. Roots Honored

A Long Island, NY councilman with local ties got a surprise on Veterans Day from a VFW post whose members he had come to honor for their service.

During his summer vacations to visit his grandmother in Townsville, it’s probably safe to say that Gaitley Stevenson-Mathews didn’t imagine the career path that would take him to Glen Cove, NY on Long Island and playing a role in the politics there.

Those summers in Townsville, which he referred to as “away camp,” were spent working in the tobacco fields. He graduated from Louisburg College in 1981.

In 2020, he was elected to the Glen Cove City Council, which is where VFW Post 347 is located. In recent years, Stevenson-Mathews visits with the local post on Veterans Day to thank them for their bravery and dedication in service to their country, according to a press release about the turn of events for Stevenson-Mathews.

This year, he arrived at the post for the ceremony with “I’m Proud to be a Veteran” lapel pins, which he distributed to each member present, the statement explained. In a surprise twist, prior to the start of their standard service, it was the councilman who was celebrated. The VFW members surprised Stevenson-Mathews with a plaque honoring him for his meritorious and distinguished service to their post.

“I was truly surprised and humbled to be presented with such an important and distinguished honor,” said Stevenson-Mathews. “To be acknowledged by veterans, who sacrificed so much in their own lifetimes is a true honor and will be something I will always cherish.”

Stevenson-Mathews is a public relations consultant as well as an acting and vocal coach and he recently created a Facebook page for the local VFW. He also was one of the first on the scene recently when the post building caught fire. The Facebook page has allowed the post to garner support – and the funds – needed to rebuild, according to VFW member and trustee Joseph Moores.

“Gaitley has been a tremendous help to all veterans, especially our VFW Post 347,” Moores stated.  “He touches base with us before important meetings to ensure our voice will be heard. Gaitley is a loyal friend and we wanted everyone to know how much we appreciate him.”

Stevenson-Mathews, a native of Red Springs, NC, grew up with a strong sense of civic duty, faith, and commitment to community. His family also served in the military. His brother, retired Colonel J. Hunter Mathews, Sr., served two tours of duty in Afghanistan. His father, James H. Mathews Sr., who is originally from Townsville, NC, served in the Navy during World War II and his mother, Jean Gaitley Mathews, served in the Cadet Nurse Corps.

Stevenson-Mathews has not forgotten his North Carolina roots. “I continue to draw on the inspiration of my professors at Louisburg College and thanks to having spent summers in Townsville (NC) as a young teenager, I am appreciative for having seen and learned the value of hard work and of supporting family and community.” “I will always value my years growing up in North Carolina,” said the councilman.

“I knew both of Gaitley’s parents,” said Louisburg resident and former Louisburg College professor Janet Taylor.  “It does not surprise me at all that Gaitley is so committed to his community on Long Island. He was certainly raised with a strong sense of the importance of serving others.

Stevenson-Mathews is the son of the late Jim and Jean Mathews of Red Springs, the nephew of Doris and Lewis Reavis of Warrenton and of the late Alma and Richard Mathews of Henderson, and the grandson of the late Martha Catherine Riggan Mathews of Townsville.

Local Extension Agent Shares Ways To Send Help To Areas Hit By Tornado, Wildfires

The recent weather events in Kentucky, Tennessee, Kansas and other Midwestern states have left devastation in their wake. Kim Woods, N.C. Cooperative extension livestock agent for Granville and Person counties shares a list of resources to help the ravaged areas rebuild.

“Many of you may have been wondering if there is anything that we in North Carolina can do to help our fellow ag folks in Kentucky and Tennessee after the devastating tornado outbreak in those states or the wildfires in Kansas,” Woods wrote in an email right before Christmas.

In Kentucky:

  • Donate money to the Kentucky Cattlemen’s Foundation. All donations will be used to help local producers in need of farm supplies. These donations can be made by calling 859.278.0899 using the Paypal app at
  • Mail a check to: KY Cattlemen’s Foundation Attn: Tornado Relief 176 Pasadena Drive, Suite 4,  Lexington, KY 40503In Tennessee:
    • The Tennessee Farm Bureau established a fund to help farmers and ranchers who incurred damage to homes, farms or personal property.

    In Kansas:

    • The Kansas Livestock Association and the Kansas Livestock Foundation are assisting ranchers who were affected by fires and high winds across the state in mid-December. To provide monetary donations, click here. Donations may be tax deductible and 100 percent of all donations will be distributed to producers whose operations were damaged by the fires.


NCTeach Supports Aspiring Teachers Get Prepared For Classrooms

Just two years after its launch, the teacher recruitment initiative called TeachNC reported that it has “significantly exceeded” its second-year goals, with more than 1,400 aspiring teachers applying to an educator preparation program in 2021. That number more than doubles the number of applicants who signed up in the first year.

From September 2020 through August 2021, the website was accessed in excess of 159,000 times and has attracted over 11,000 prospective educators who are being supported in their quest to become teachers, according to a press statement from the organization, which partners with several state and national agencies to get more educators into classrooms.

More than 1,400 of those applied for an educator preparation program in North Carolina during the initiative’s second year, with many of them also entering the classroom through the state’s residency licensure pathway, allowing them to work as teachers while completing course work necessary for certification. The year-two teacher recruits represents more than a 130% increase over the number of applicants supported in TeachNC’s first year. Of the applicants, 50 percent identified as candidates of color and nearly a quarter of those reporting a focus area say they want to teach a STEM-related subject such as math or science or in special education.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Catherine Truitt commended the TeachNC initiative for its success in helping to attract more people to the teaching profession and serving as a key resource of information about teaching careers in the state.

“TeachNC fills a critical need in North Carolina to make it easy for would-be teachers to learn more about the profession and to support them as they begin their journey to the classroom,” Truitt said. “My own North Star is that every student deserves a highly qualified, excellent teacher in every classroom, and the work of TeachNC is helping the state reach that all-important goal.”

TeachNC, which works in partnership with the N.C. Department of Public Instruction, delivers research-based tools and supports for prospective teachers, helping reduce the barriers to applying to and enrolling in an educator preparation program. In a survey by the initiative, 60 percent of TeachNC subscriber-respondents reported an increased interest in teaching and 59 percent of TeachNC’s applicants reported that without the support of TeachNC tools, they may not have applied to a North Carolina educator prep program.

The following resources are freely available to anyone in North Carolina who may be considering entering the teaching profession:

  • 1-on-1 coaching from current North Carolina educators (900+ calls in year two)
  • Interactive education preparation program search tool and application tools
  • Application fee reimbursements
  • Scholarships and financial aid search tool
  • North Carolina’s first statewide teacher job board
  • Live chat function to answer questions 24 hours/day
  • Guides on testing, finances, resumes, cover letters, application essays, licensure, and more

Brenda Berg, President & CEO of BEST NC, the nonprofit, nonpartisan group of business leaders that launched and helped fund the TeachNC pilot, said she is pleased with these results.

“When we launched TeachNC in 2019, we knew our state had an urgent need for teachers. With the challenges our schools have faced through the pandemic, this need is greater than ever, making it even more exciting to see that these results have exceeded our expectations,” Berg said.

“It’s not that people don’t want to become teachers. More than 10,000 people have expressed interest in becoming teachers by subscribing to TeachNC; they just need additional information and support to get there,” she said. “We are also happy to see the state take this over as an on-going effort, because we know that an investment in teacher talent is a direct investment in North Carolina students.”

The recently passed state budget includes funding to DPI to adopt the TeachNC initiative and provides a dedicated position within the agency to administer the program.

TeachNC is a partnership of BEST NC, NCDPI, and TeachNC includes a full suite of strategic recruitment activities including a robust communications campaign, a comprehensive website encompassing all existing resources in the state, and 1-on-1 personalized supports for teacher candidates. These resources create a trusted, safe, and user-friendly support system for anyone considering a teaching career in North Carolina. Visit TeachNC to learn more.

VGCC Dr. Levy Brown

VGCC’s Dr. Levy Brown Hired For State-Level Post

Dr. Levy Brown, a vice president of Vance-Granville Community College, has accepted a position as senior vice president/chief academic officer for the North Carolina Community College System in Raleigh. He will begin his new job in January 2022.

In a written statement, Brown said he appreciates his time at VGCC and is excited about the opportunity to pursue new professional endeavors. “VGCC has a number of brilliant students, faculty, staff and community members. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to lead and serve alongside these individuals during my time at the college,” Brown stated. “Looking ahead, I am humbled by the opportunity to partner with my colleagues to make a difference at the system level. We have myriad opportunities to make a tremendous impact on students, faculty, and staff across the Great 58,” he said, in reference to the 58 community colleges that comprise the state system.

VGCC President Dr. Rachel Desmarais thanked Brown for his leadership during his time at VGCC. “Dr. Brown’s focus on building student supports and investing in faculty development has put our college on a transformational path for student success,” she stated.
“I look forward to working with Dr. Brown in a new capacity as he leads academics for North Carolina community colleges.”

Cecilia Wheeler will be acting vice president of learning, student engagement and success while VGCC conducts a nationwide search beginning in the fall of 2022. Wheeler, a 32-year VGCC employee, is Dean of Arts and Sciences. She has delayed her retirement plans to serve in the capacity of vice president until a candidate is in place, hopefully by January 2023.

In his new role, Brown will oversee a variety of areas, including systemwide academic educational delivery activities such as adult basic skills, curriculum programs, student support services and workforce continuing education. He also will be responsible for leading and coordinating instruction and student learning supports among other critical areas that impact the student experience.

He fills the position vacated by Dr. Kimberly Gold, who was promoted at the state board’s November meeting to the position of chief of staff with NCCCS.

Brown’s prior work includes several leadership roles with Vance-Granville Community College (VGCC), including Vice President of Learning, Student Engagement and Success; vice president of Academic Affairs, and Vice President of Student Services. In his current role, he serves as the college’s Chief Academic and Student Affairs Officer. He is responsible for leading and working collaboratively with credit faculty and staffers in the areas of academic programs, student success, equity and inclusion, enrollment management, K-12 partnerships and other areas. Brown is serving as the college’s primary lead for their work with Achieving the Dream. He continues to work alongside a cadre of faculty and staff to improve student outcomes. Further, he is one of the leaders at VGCC tapped to focus on the adult learner experience through NC ReConnect.

Prior to joining VGCC, Brown served as Dean of Arts & Sciences at Lenoir Community College. Also, he has served in various leadership roles and has taught at other higher education institutions in North Carolina. Brown has been actively engaged in service at the local, state, and national level. On the national level, Dr. Brown serves on the Commission on Student Success for the American Association of Community Colleges and he was recently named a 2021-22 Aspen Rising Presidents Fellow. Together, the 2021-22 fellows are leaders at colleges that collectively serve more than 400,000 students. As well, 67 Rising Presidents Fellowship alumni have become presidents of community colleges that collectively serve an additional 953,000 students nationwide. Locally and regionally, Brown has served on various boards and committees including, but not limited to, the Henderson-Vance Chamber of Commerce (current chairperson), Teach for America-Eastern North Carolina, North Central North Carolina Boys and Girls Club, and the Transfer Advisory Committee (TAC).

Brown holds a bachelor’s degree from East Carolina University, a master’s degree in library science from North Carolina Central University, and a doctorate in educational leadership with a focus on higher education from East Carolina University.