CULPEPER STAR-EXPONENT, CLINT SCHEMMER
Courtesy of U.S. Rep. Abigail Spanberger and President Joe Biden, $200,000 in federal money is coming Culpeper County’s way, to replace the decades-old flat roof on The Carver Center near Cedar Mountain.
The multi-purpose center, housed in the former George Washington Carver Regional High School, is being developed as a rural community education campus. Until 1968, Carver educated African American students from Culpeper and three other area counties before the state desegregated its public schools.
On Tuesday afternoon, Biden signed into law Spanberger’s legislation earmarking money for the roof, which is integral to continuing to convert the decades-old school building into a home for classrooms, a commercial kitchen and Virginia Extension offices.
“It means Abigail Spanberger has put Carver as a top priority in this community,” Carl Stafford, Culpeper’s senior extension agent, said of the news in an interview. “Securing this federal funding is an achievement. Spanberger taking this to Washington, in the form of a budget request, was a big, big deal to me.”
The 7th Congressional District lawmaker secured the funding for Culpeper as part of a fiscal 2022 appropriations package passed by the House and Senate. The Carver Center roof is the first Virginia Extension project, statewide, to receive money from Congress’s new Community Project Funding, once commonly referred to as earmarks, a spokesman for Spanberger said Tuesday.
After major reforms, Congress created Community Project Funding to ensure members, in concert with the communities they represent, can directly apply for federal money to support locally planned projects during the annual appropriations process.
Gary Deal, chairman of the Culpeper County Board of Supervisors, expressed gratitude for the appropriation.
“These funds will directly contribute to the Carver Center’s revitalization as a cultural, agricultural and vocational education campus,” Deal said in a statement. “As a lifelong resident of Culpeper, I am very proud of the Carver initiative, and the benefit and camaraderie it brings to the region. “
“The Carver Center holds great potential and continues to gain momentum in direct response to the tireless effort put forward by the George Washington Carver Regional High School Alumni Association, 4-County Museum, George Washington Carver Agricultural Research Center, Virginia Cooperative Extension, Culpeper County staff, and the Culpeper County Board of Supervisors,” Deal said. “The story of the Carver Center continues to be written by the many organizations and individuals working in collaboration for the preservation of this important landmark.”
The appropriation will support creation of a Carver-campus food processing center that includes a commercial kitchen for educational use and small business operations. That project will help sustain food businesses and small and medium-sized local farms, Spanberger’s office said.
The money will also help The Carver Center continue addressing unemployment and poverty, reducing the loss of farmland, and improving the local economy, the congresswoman’s office said.
“The George Washington Carver Regional High School Alumni Association appreciates all efforts to restore, maintain and enhance our historical facility,” said the Rev. Frank D. Lewis Sr., chairman of the alumni group. “As the building is re-purposed and new programs and activities are housed, it is important that physical updates are made to ensure its longevity. … The roof project will also provide an opportunity to achieve one of the association’s major goals, the restoration of the school’s original name to the building.”
Spanberger said she is proud to have worked with Culpeper leaders to aid The Carver Center’s “incredible mission.”
“Since coming to Congress, I have been focused on bringing federal resources home to Central Virginia’s communities—like this funding,” the Democratic legislator said in a statement. “I am encouraged that the $200,000 allocated to this project will now be going straight to Culpeper, and I want to thank Culpeper County’s local officials for their engagement with my office and their commitment to their neighbors.”
The Carver Center serves Culpeper and neighboring communities by housing vocational training, agricultural education programs, and a museum dedicated to educating the public on the inequities of segregation.
The Carver 4-County Museum, housed in the school’s former library, receives visitors for tours and has earned acclaim in the region for its exhibits and programs, Lewis said.
Stafford said he has told his colleagues in Virginia Extension he appreciates that, now, people in the nation’s capital know what and where The Carver Center is, thanks to Spanberger and Deputy Agriculture Secretary Jewel H. Bronaugh. The latter official, who has taken part in programs at Carver, was previously Virginia’s commissioner of agriculture and consumer services and state director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency.
Spanberger’s office said she worked with community leaders in all 10 counties of the 7th District to gather their requests for Community Project Funding. For the full list of her submissions, click here. To be eligible, projects must be sponsored by local or state governments or nonprofit groups and otherwise meet qualifications for federal grants.