Weed and Seed gets pat on back
LUMBERTON — Lumberton’s Weed and Seed program got a federal “attaboy” from a U.S. Department of Justice official Thursday who said he was impressed with the city’s utilization of money used to fund it.
Cory Randolph, a grant program manager for the Weed and Seed initiative, told a gathering of about 40 local officials and volunteers it was evident they understood the importance of working together.
“You understand that this is not just a grant program, but a strategy that connects all levels of government with private citizens to weed out the bad and seed in the good,” Randolph said. “You understand the importance that as citizens you have to be leaders and, as Ghandi said, the importance of being the change you want to see.”
Last week, North and West Lumberton was approved for $150,000 in Weed and Seed funds to help reduce drug use, curb violence and address the problem of gangs. It was North and West Lumberton’s second award in as many years. A Weed and Seed program already exists for South and East Lumberton.
Weed and Seed Coordinator Sylvia Stone thanked Randolph for coming to Lumberton.
“You have been a very good program manager for us, always available by e-mail or by phone,” she said. “You have seen for yourself what a difference the Weed and Seed program has made in our community.”
Weed and Seed is a multi-agency strategy designed to combat violent crime, gang activity, drug use, prostitution and drug trafficking in targeted high crime neighborhoods through social and economic revitalization.
Committees made up of local residents work with local law enforcement and other officials to identify problem areas and come up with solutions to combat the problems.
Lumberton Weed and Seed offers a variety of programs, including academic tutoring, mentoring classes, recreational activities, child and adult computer labs, music lessons, arts, crafts and wood carving, GED and adult basic education, youth and family counseling, drug awareness, health education and violence intervention.
Lumberton is one of about 330 sites across the country receiving Weed and Seed funding. Typically half the money goes to the weed component that helps law enforcement initiatives weed out the bad, while the other half goes to the seed component.
Weed and Seed program loses its funding
The federal government has cut off funding to the city’s Weed and Seed program.
The action comes following three years of warnings to program coordinator Marion Porterfield that she had to turn in proper reports on time and prove that Weed and Seed completed valuable projects.
Weed and Seed is a federal program aimed at reducing crime and revitalizing communities.
Porterfield’s city funding — which pays for her salary — was cut from this year’s proposed Community Development Block Grant. The 2009 city grant will pay her salary through the end of this year.
The federal Department of Justice also denied Porterfield’s grant request last year, after funding her for four years. Sites can get up to five years of funding and are not eligible after that.
But Porterfield isn’t giving up. The community needs an impartial organizer like her, she said.
“Not being identified with any one agency but being able to work with all agencies, that was really a plus,” she said. “I built relationships with people and organizations. The churches are now working with agencies. People who didn’t go to church are now working with agencies.”
But she acknowledged that collaboration isn’t a great grant winner.
“Collaboration is not as tangible in people’s minds as a building going up,” she said.
Incomplete reports didn’t help.
At the Department of Justice website, Schenectady’s Weed and Seed site is still listed as not having completed a performance report for 2008 and 2009. According to the site, Porterfield only filed one report, in 2007. Porterfield said she has filed other reports but was recently asked by the DOJ to add more information.
The DOJ did not comment on why it refused Porterfield’s grant request except to say that all sites with incomplete paperwork were in serious jeopardy of losing their grants.
The DOJ grant rejection led directly to the city’s funding cut.
Development Director Richard Purga said there was no point in paying Porterfield if she doesn’t have any grant money to run programs.
He said the city would only consider funding Porterfield again if she won other grants. But even then, he said, funding would be limited.
“If they’re successful, we would certainly revisit funding her position for another six months,” he said.
The last grant given by the city funded Porterfield for 18 months. Her position is paid for through the end of this year.
There is a chance Porterfield might get federal funding next year. The Weed and Seed program is proposed to be replaced in the president’s next budget.
“The new program will encourage communities to model innovative public safety initiatives using place-based, evidence-based strategies in order to develop new programs tailored to local conditions on the ground,” spokeswoman Kara McCarthy said.