WILSON COUNTY — In Raleigh, theGolden Leaf Foundationannounced 39 grants totaling more than $5 million. It is part of the money from the national tobacco settlement, but the money is not going into the pockets of farmers.
Money from the foundation is helping children and their parents learn to read in rural Greene County. For Mexican native Maria Ponce and her son, Jesse, it is the best way to learn a new language.
"We need English because we live in the United States, and it's important to learn English," she says.
Organizers say the instruction is an investment in the state's future. Better educated parents get better jobs and become more self-sufficient, but getting there costs money.
"So when you have programs in place that number one are supportive and encouraging to families, then they feel like that's a place that I would be successful," says Lou Anne Shackelford of Greene Family Literacy.
Some of the money will also go to the Opportunity Industrialization Center or "OIC" in Wilson, where factory workers from tobacco, textiles and other industries can learn new trades -- workers who could excel with the right training.
"We'll be able to help assist some of these people because a lot of them have good work ethics and habits. They've worked over the years, but they don't have a skill that has any demand," says Howard Jones, Wilson OIC president.
Some of the money will go to farmers to help them develop alternatives to tobacco. All of the grants are designed to help the communities overcome their dependence on the very crop that helped build the state.
Next year, the Golden Leaf Foundation hopes to award grants totaling $8 to $10 million.