RED SPRINGS — About 30 people gathered at the Community Building on Monday along with Rep. Garland Pierce to ask representatives for Gov. Pat McCrory what the proposed budget has in store for rural, economically disadvantaged areas.
“Red Springs is only as good as Robeson County,” said Commissioner Edward Henderson to Judy Jefferson, the governor’s director of community and constituent affairs. “… We’re already at the bottom. We want to know, is his idea of improving the economy starting at the top and working down or starting at the bottom and seeing what the problems are and then working his way up?”
Jefferson, citing a phone call she received from a student who had planned to protest outside of The University of North Carolina at Pembroke after hearing news that the proposed budget could lead to the school’s closure, said that “a lot of stuff trickles up,” but that people needed to make sure their opinions were reaching the governor’s ears. Still, she warned that money for which residents ask may not be available.
“The days when the government is going to swoop in and give a big grant and build a big building are over for a while, if we ever see it again,” she said.
Jefferson said that churches must help the community in providing help for the homeless and hungry. She said while “this administration has a real commitment to public service,” that people “have to be willing to do things ourselves.”
Ophelia Ray, CEO of a Hoke County non-profit called MOCEDC, said that her organization is willing to put in the work, but without funding, can only do so much.
“We have 21,000 people under the age of 18, and there are no jobs for them,” Ray said. “Non-profits can’t make up that difference. They’re about to be out of school in three months and what can we expect from them by August or September other than to get into trouble? If we can’t get them jobs they are just going to be back through our (court) system.”
Jefferson told Ray that the area’s community colleges are there to provide vocational training, but Lornette Edwards, the organization’s vice president, said that the county’s residents are too poor to afford books, class fees, or transportation to schools that were often far outside of the community.
Kevin Daniels, another of McCrory’s representatives, said that small communities are often the ones who don’t seek out available funding because they are not aware of it. He urged Edwards and Ray to connect with his office, which he said could point them in the right direction.
John Harry, a Shannon resident, also expressed concerns over the budget, but for the area’s veterans.
“The money doesn’t flow down here,” he said. “We can’t do anything if we have no support in Raleigh.”
Jefferson told Harry that the administration is currently re-organizing, and will try to address his concerns.
“At this point it’s not about parties, it’s about working together for the good of North Carolina and Robeson County,” Pierce said.