By Todd Cohen
PINEVILLE, N.C. — In 2000, in the wake of leaving the U.S. Marine Corps after 12 years on active duty and rising to the rank of staff sergeant, Ed Salau of New Bern joined the North Carolina Army National Guard.
In 2004, during an ambush of the platoon he was commanding as a lieutenant, Salau and Sgt. Andy Butterfield of Durham both lost their legs after two rocket-propelled grenades hit their Bradley Fighting Vehicle in the exact same spot.
Salau is the first recipient of a grant from the North Carolina Heroes Fund, a new Pineville-based nonprofit that is raising money and will make grants to help address the needs of North Carolinians who have served in combat overseas, and their families.
“It is focused on those who have suffered financial hardship due to their service overseas,” says Scott Stone, who founded the nonprofit and chairs its board.
Launched in November, the North Carolina Heroes Fund aims to raise $500,000 in 2008, and already has received funding commitments from Arcadis, Cisco Systems, Duke Energy, Piedmont Natural Gas and UnitedHealthcare of the Carolinas, says Stone, Charlotte-based senior vice president and national practice director for land resources for Arcadis, a global engineering and architecture firm.
With retired Gen. H. Hugh Shelton, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, serving as honorary chairman, the nonprofit’s board of advisors also includes four North Carolina members of the U.S. House, including Robin Hayes of Concord, Sue Myrick of Charlotte, Mike McIntyre of Lumberton and Bob Etheridge of Harnett County.
The nonprofit’s board of directors, which will manage the organization, raise money and make decisions on grants, includes representatives of all the companies that have made funding commitments, plus representatives of AT&T North Carolina, Cirrus Medical Staffing and the North Carolina National Guard.
The North Carolina Heroes Fund already has raised $20,000 in donations and commitments, and is negotiating with its corporate sponsors on the level of their support.
North Carolina military personnel and veterans, and their families, can apply for support any time, and the North Carolina Heroes Fund will make grants once a quarter, Stone says.
“The intention is not to do an endowment but to try to distribute each year what we collect each year,” he says.
The board will focus mainly on corporations and individuals for contributions.
A big task for the North Carolina Heroes Fund will be getting the word to potential grant recipients about the fund, and encouraging them to apply for support, Stone says.
“One of the challenges with these particular recipients is they can be very reluctant to ask for help,” he says.
To generate support, the North Carolina Heroes Fund plans in 2008 to host a series of dinners or lunches featuring high-profile speakers.
And to spread the word about the availability of financial support, Stone and Shelton soon will send a letter to all military commands in the state, asking their commanding officers to circulate information about the North Carolina Heroes Fund down the chain of command.
“North Carolina has the largest number of active military personnel in the country, with our bases, and we’ve got some of the biggest,” says Stone.
“People want to support our troops and they’re not sure which organization to give to,” he says. “I’m very optimistic this is going to be an organization that can be the go-to organization in North Carolina for support of our military personnel.”