Onslow County December 2022


County Seat

Median Income

Population Density Designation
Regional City/Suburban

Onslow Community Outreach (OCO) was our first visit in Onslow County. The nonprofit began in the 1970s as a collaborative effort between religious organizations and community-minded individuals who wanted to ensure all families in Onslow County had gifts of toys and clothes during the holiday season. Gradually, the organization grew from this initial mission to add a soup kitchen offering, emergency beds, food distribution and eventually a medical clinic. The nonprofit is also now part of the Healthy Opportunities Pilot — a large-scale pilot program to test and evaluate what North Carolina’s Department of Health and Human Services describes as, “evidence-based, non-medical interventions related to housing, food, transportation and interpersonal safety and toxic stress to high-needs Medicaid enrollees.”1

Our tour of the facility included a chance to see their emergency beds, ask questions of their staff and tour the food distribution space. OCO executive director C.J. Crooks shared that their beds are “virtually always full.” Crooks went on to share that they serve over 120 meals a day on average while distributing nearly 20,000 pounds of food monthly.

“Our staff and volunteers are the real success story here,” noted Crooks. “They make it happen. And they have built real relationships with the community.”

One OCO staff member showed us how they assemble a food box for a family. Food boxes tend to include a mix of packaged and fresh food. If someone from the community is receiving a first-time box, OCO makes sure they receive essentials for cooking such as salt, pepper and oil.

From OCO, we traveled to the Eastern North Carolina Regional Skills Center. The Skills Center is a school focused on providing career and technical education for Onslow County — but the ambition of the school is to contribute toward building a more highly skilled workforce across eastern North Carolina according to John Shannon who serves as the executive director of the school. Students who take classes at the Skills Center can complete courses and earn credentials across a variety of trades including automotive, culinary and cyber security.

Our tour of the facility allowed us to meet students and faculty alike. Shannon pointed out that the Skills Center had comparable facilities for their offerings to what you might see on a college campus. He went on to share, “Our investment in technology and facilities allows us to provide a best-in-class education to our students so they can be prepared to compete for highly skilled jobs right out of high school.”

We concluded our tour with a delicious lunch provided by the culinary students from the school. We were joined by a series of community leaders including representatives from the county commissioners, health department and area nonprofits to discuss the past, present and future of Onslow County.

A common theme of the conversation is the need to train and then retain young people across the region. Shannon told us, “You can get a job in any city in America with the program offerings we have right here.”

The hope is those students will ultimately choose to stay in the region — while having a chance to participate in the global economy from right in Onslow County.

Meet Dr. Algie Gatewood

Dr. Algie Gatewood is only the fourth President to lead Alamance Community College (ACC) since it opened in 1958. During Dr. Gatewood’s tenure at ACC, the college won its largest ever bond referendum – nearly $40 million – in 2018 to fund a number of major capital projects and expansions. The college also secured $16 million in county funding in 2014 to build the Advanced Applied Technology Center. Other notable accomplishments include creating a Biotechnology Center of Excellence, introducing an Early College, facilitating an apprenticeship program, and introducing nearly two dozen new academic programs and articulation agreements with state universities.