New Hanover board hears about community needs

The board of advisors of the New Hanover County Community Foundation.

Many of NCCF’s affiliate foundation partners are in the midst of or about to begin their annual competitive grants process. A lot of work goes into community grantmaking, and it starts before the cycle even opens.

From the affiliates’ perspective, the preamble to grantmaking generally begins with an evaluation of community needs. More and more NCCF affiliates are using existing local data from several sources to guide grantmaking. A few are convening community roundtables that provide input from many areas.

J.H. Corpening, II, chief district court judge for the Fifth Judicial District.Affiliates also may invite local leaders to speak to their boards about their specialized expertise and sector insight. That was the case with the New Hanover County Community Foundation, which invited J.H. Corpening, II, chief district court judge for the Fifth Judicial District, to speak at the March meeting.


Corpening has served as a judge in New Hanover and Pender counties since 1991 and as chief district court judge for more than a decade. He has served as one of the full-time judges in New Hanover’s Family Court since 2000, and since 2014 has heard all cases related to delinquency, abuse/neglect/dependency and parental rights issues. He has a number of certifications and honors, but perhaps none as relevant as his role as a daily volunteer in the New Hanover County public schools.

All combine to make Corpening a compelling guest speaker about the dramatic needs of youth and families in New Hanover County, deemed the worst area in the country for opioid abuse.

NHCCF Board Member Ronald Copley and Board President Kristi Sullivan.

This alarming designation and other ills compelled Corpening to suggest that the NHCCF grants committee consider the needs of youth and families this year. His professional insights on these local needs could apply to many regions in our state, so we decided to share some of the key points of his excellent presentation. He highlighted six major areas deserving consideration:

  1. Any organization identifying, responding to and treating trauma and abuse of children;
  2. Programs that address the need for parenting skills, particularly in homes with mental-health issues;
  3. School-based interventions, such as those that provide support and mentoring; behavior modification; after-school programs; and alternative programs to suspension;
  4. Programs for middle and high school students that motivate learning, with an emphasis on boys, who are being left behind; and help with transitional living skill for children aging out of foster care;
  5. Substance abuse support;
  6. Preventative approaches, particularly in light of the dramatic level of opioid abuse in the county.

Left to right are: Anne Sorhagen, NCCF regional director; Kristi Sullivan, board president; Steve Gaskins, board member; Judge J.H. Corpening, II; Patrick Boykin, board vice president; and Frank Gibson, member of both the NHCCF and the statewide board.

The board discussed the somber statistics and peppered Corpening with many questions, with a pledge to consider all they had heard as they embarked on this year’s community grantmaking effort, which is now underway and will end April 24.