And the project has spawned an even grander vision of an independent center to assist in the region's recovery.
The East Carolina University Outreach Network (ECU ON) is a volunteer group that now comprises over 250 faculty, staff and other professionals who will provides services at no charge to people, businesses and communities in need.
Al Delia (Regional Development Services), said teams are already in place and are ready to respond with hands-on help, advice, information or research on environmental and health issues, planning, counseling, construction management, safety, language interpreting and business assistance. Delia is coordinating the efforts of the Outreach Network. In the meantime, ECU announced plans at the Oct. 22 Board of Trustees meeting to establish the Sustainable Economic Recovery and Growth (SERG) Center as a permanent addition to the ECU campus.
The center's vision statement notes that eastern North Carolina has lagged behind the rest of the state and nation in its growth and development. It says the center at ECU will seek to "become the world leader and model for how universities engage, reach-out, provide public service, and improve their constituent regions."
SERG plans to become involved in such areas a community development, technology, transportation, disaster planning, agriculture, medicine, the environment and education. It will host conferences, develop research projects, establish a venture capital fund for innovative business ideas, and encourage collaboration with other universities and colleges.
Approval by the UNC General Administration is needed to put the plans for the SERG Center into action. Meanwhile, the Outreach Network continues to evolve. Chancellor Richard Eakin, in October, led a task force of university administrators and experts to meet with community leaders in several eastern North Carolina communities. The meetings were held in Windsor, Belhaven, Tarboro, Goldsboro, Lake Waccamaw and Kenansville.
The ECU representatives used the meetings to help develop a better understanding of the needs of the region and to identify the resources that ECU may be able to make available to the affected communities.
"The intellectual resources of East Carolina University can be pivotal in assisting the region in regaining its stability and dealing with the problems precipitated by this natural disaster," said Delia. Information about the Outreach Network and how to volunteer is available at the Regional Development Institute by call 328-6650 ext. 228.
ECU News Bureau