Three years ago, the tables were set at Carolina Trace Country Club awaiting the arrival of guests and honorees for the Lee County Community Foundation’s annual Woman and Man of The Year awards. That night, however, there would be no banquet, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Thursday night, after the long hiatus, a large crowd gathered in that same ballroom to honor Nancy C. Adams as LCCF Woman of the Year and Donald T. Oldham as LCCF Man of the Year. Both had been scheduled to be honored in 2020. The banquet had not been held since then.
LCCF board President David Spivey spoke about the challenges since then.
“It’s been four years since our last event,” he said. “The banquet was all set up when Covid shut everything down.”
After enjoying a meal and music of Greg Gelb, board member Bob Joyce kicked off the program by talking about the foundation and introduced Natalie Jenkins-Peele, director of Community Leadership for the statewide organization. Jenkins-Peele recognized members of the LCCF board, which includes Joyce, Spivey, Mikeal Basinger, Linda Foushee, Mark Akinosho, Jan Hayes, Steve Malloy, Margaret Murchison and Terry Russell.
The Lee County Community Foundation is an affiliate of the North Carolina Community Foundation and has been serving the area since 1997. The local volunteer advisory board helps build community assets by creating permanent endowments, making grants and leveraging leadership and partnerships in Lee County. In 2022, the LCCF awarded more than $49,000 to more than a dozen nonprofits.
One of those grant recipients was Brick Capital Community Development Corporation, and Executive Director Kerry Bashaw spoke for a few minutes about the organization’s efforts to help provide affordable housing in Sanford and Lee County.
Bashaw noted that in the past two years, nationwide, there has been a 46% increase in the cost of a home. He noted that with interest rates rising, many people struggle. Bashaw said a recommended guideline is that people spend no more than 30% of their gross income on housing.
“Many families cannot afford homes in Sanford and Lee County,” he said.
After Bashaw updated the audience on Brick Capital’s projects, Basinger spoke about another grant recipient, the Lee County Partnership for Families and Children.
One of the Partnership’s big projects recently was establishing the Happy Bottoms Bank, which helps provide diapers and feminine products to area residents who struggle to afford them.
After the updates, Joyce took the microphone to introduce Michael Gusset, who gave an interaction for the Woman of the Year.
Adams, the LCCF Woman of the Year, and her husband, Greg, operate the Piggly Wiggly stores in Broadway and Sanford. She has been involved in numerous endeavors for area nonprofits.
Adams shared family stories and spoke about the “trailblazers” in her family. She noted that she had first prepared her speech three years ago.
“I look at the people in this room and I love what I see,” she said, noting contribution of time and energy from them. “It’s great. Thank you for the honor.”
Next Kirk Bradley spoke about Oldham as he introduced him as the Man of the Year, calling him a “Level 5 leader.”
Oldham, president and CEO of Sanford Contractors, then spoke, saying he was honored to accept the award.
“It’s a good night,” he said. Oldham then acknowledged that he couldn’t have accomplished many things in his life without his biological family, church family, work family and the community family.
“You can’t do anything without support,” he concluded. “Thank you.”
A veteran support nonprofit is working to establish a foothold in Lee County with a mission to help similar organizations.
Veteran Harbor Inc., based in Fayetteville, has obtained property on Carthage Street where the organization wants to set up a resource center to aid other nonprofits that work to assist veterans, according to Brian Stanfill, president and executive director of Veteran Harbor.
“We want to reach out with other nonprofits who might want to run programs at our center,” Stanfill said.
When completed, the center will be in the 2600 block of Carthage Street in the home and property of Robert Lee, a veteran who has been through the Harnett County Veteran’s Treatment Court.
The court is designed to handle primarily misdemeanor cases against veterans who are in need of help, said Zach Campbell.
Campbell is director of the court which has three case managers to assist veterans who are homeless or suffer from traumatic brain injuries, post-traumatic stress disorder and other military related conditions or disabilities.
Veterans are generally referred to the special court at the recommendation of a judge or district attorney, Campbell said.
Lee was assisted through Veterans Court about a year ago, Campbell said, and completed the recommended treatment and was helped by Veteran Harbor.
He has been staying in a camper and agreed to deed the property to Veteran Harbor for $5,000, according to county records.
Lee’s his home had deteriorated to the point of being uninhabitable,” Campbell said.
“This house has zero value and rightfully would be condemned,” Campbell said. “By the time it’s done, it won’t just raise the property value, but it will remove and eyesore and be a huge benefit.
“Mr. Lee is not losing anything. He will lifetime rights live on and manage the property and be fully involved.”
Veteran Harbor recently received $100,00 from state Sen. Jim Burgin, who represents Harnett and Lee counties. The money will be given through the Lee County Board of Commissioners, but is state-allocated funding, Campbell said.
The money will used to begin work on the house, Stanfill said. It’s not known when the project will be completed.