Warren County May 2022

Population
19,871

County Seat
Warrenton

Median Income
$36,466

Population Density Designation
Rural

Our visit to Warren County began at the Warren County Armory. The Armory is a former National Guard armory renovated to serve as a hub for recreational, cultural and community gatherings. As we walked in the Armory, we saw an exercise class for older adults underway.

Vance-Granville Community College president Dr. Rachel Desmarais and Community and Economic Development Manager Charla Duncan greeted us. Desmarais and Duncan provided an overview of the county’s recent economic development trends – including what Duncan described as a “significant growth” in travel and tourism in recent years due to a variety of factors. As evidence of the growth, Duncan pointed to our breakfast treats from Jenny Cakes at the Lake — a new bakery in the area that had opened recently.

Dr. Margaret Brake, the Director of the Warren County Health Department, provided us with an overview of the department’s work both before and during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We exist to protect our community against outbreaks, prevent disease through education and access and promote good health,” noted Brake. She went on to say that the health department must ultimately work to address root causes in collaboration with organizations across the county. Brake pointed out the county only has two family medical practices, two mental health providers, the only obstetrician is employed by the health department and there is no hospital or urgent care within county lines.

The conversation around the need to collaborate for good health continued as Vicky Stokes, the head of the Senior Center in Warren County, pointed out that the county has a significant population of 65-years-old and older people — and this creates particular challenges due to the lack of public transportation to access fresh food and specialized care. Stokes pointed out that one way they have tackled access to fresh food is working with two local nonprofits, Working Landscapes and the Green Rural Redevelopment Organization (GRRO). They’ve helped provide frozen entrees that are both “healthy and delicious” according to Stokes.

Henry and Ardis Crews of GRRO walked us through their work providing “Wellness on Wheels” — including FoodRx. GRRO ultimately is focused on building up the assets of the region to provide local residents with opportunities to thrive where they are.

“We are unapologetically rural,” said Henry Crews with a smile as he described their work. He went on to say that too often conversations around the urban-rural divide are focused on urban voices, and GRRO hopes to play a role in shifting the conversation.

Working Landscapes was also represented during our visit. Carla Norwood said Working Landscapes has been focused on being “asset-based and entrepreneurial from the beginning.” Norwood went on to say their work is concentrated on building what she calls “the value chain.” The value chain, as Norwood sees it, is a supply chain with a mission at its core. They do this work through a variety of methods including building out a food hub that helps purchase food in bulk from local farms, process it and sell it. This allows farms to get their food into schools, for example, through Working Landscapes’ Good Agricultural Practices certification (also commonly known as GAP certification).

After the conversation concluded, we exited the Armory by walking past a bustling local talent and art show. The Armory was clearly living up to its mission of serving as a community hub on the spring day we visited Warren 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.

U39702, 7/22