Agency distributes $16 million every year through grants

Last updated: July 02. 2014 9:14AM - 299 Views
By - aoverfelt@civitasmedia.com

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LAURINBURG — Four-County Community Services, based in Laurinburg for more than two decades, announced Monday that the agency would not only be moving its main office to Lumberton but also changing its name to Southeastern Community & Family Services.

According to a statement on Monday by Jill Morris, a public relations consultant hired by the agency this year, 22 of 26 employees at the 241 S. Main St. location in downtown Laurinburg will transfer to the agency’s new office at 405 N. Elm St. in Lumberton. The four other employees will remain in Laurinburg, at a small office in The Oaks Professional Building at 915 S. Main St. No new positions will be filled in Lumberton.

Southeastern distributes some $16 million annually through state and federal grants to operate 16 Head Start programs and administer housing assistance programs in seven counties. The agency did not officially announce the move until Monday’s statement, though much of the downtown Laurinburg location was in boxes early last week. Morris said then that the move would create a more centralized location for the agency and the bulk of the clients it serves in Robeson, Scotland, Bladen, Brunswick, Columbus, Hoke and Pender counties.

“Over the last 50 years, lifestyles have changed as the economic climate has shifted,” said Erika J. Whitaker, the agency’s executive director, in the statement. “Our communities’ needs have prompted the agency to assess and modify how, and where, we do business. It is critical that we put the needs of our clients and stakeholders first. In other words, we need to be more visible and accessible … .”

The nonprofit’s name and address were amended on June 3, according to a filing with the North Carolina Department of the Secretary of the State. The registered agent is Jason J. King, the assistant county manager for Robeson County who serves as chairman of the agency’s board of directors.

Prior filings show that the agency changed its name from Tri-County Community Action to Four-County Community Services on Sept. 16, 1975, and last moved in 1994. Though the agency continued to broaden its service area, King said, the Four-County moniker stuck.

“It was a board decision, for strategic planning and brand recognition,” said King of the name change. “The name Four-County is no longer applicable to our business model.”

The agency has seen its share of internal turmoil stemming from alleged mismanagement under former director Richard Greene. A state audit this year found that nearly $5 million was misspent on items such as gym memberships and employee bonuses from 2009-2012.

But King says the name change was not designed to help the agency overcome its troubled past.

“We’re the same people. It’s just a different name for strategic planning and brand recognition for the people and children we provide services to,” he said. “This is nothing about our image.”

All correspondence related to Four-County should be addressed to Southeastern Community & Family Services, Inc., P.O. Box 1025, Lumberton, NC 28359.

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