A commitment to Suffolk

Published 8:46 pm Saturday, December 15, 2012

There was a time when the economy and culture of Suffolk were tied up in the fates of four or five of the city’s biggest companies and the local families that owned them. Many of the most well known names in Suffolk today still reflect the influence those families and those companies had through the years.

Today, though some of those old-Suffolk companies are still active in the city, sometimes it seems the days are long gone when a few family owned companies served as the backbone of the city. Today, with the growth of North Suffolk, the decline of the peanut and the family farm and the rise of the warehousing and distribution sector, things are different in Suffolk.

But the scions of many of those old families remain, their roots in Suffolk have grown deeper and their commitment to the city and its future seem stronger than ever.

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The Birdsong Corp. is a great example. Birdsong today is a world leader in the peanut industry. But when the company opened its first storage operation in Suffolk it was much smaller. Through the years, company officials established roots deep into Suffolk society, and a sense of philanthropy developed that has made Suffolk a better place.

Birdsong still ranks as one of Suffolk’s largest employers, and its leaders’ sense of commitment to the city remains strong, as evidenced by the announcement this week that the Birdsong Corp. has donated $150,000 to help build a regional Licensed Practical Nursing program at the Hobbs Suffolk Campus of Paul D. Camp Community College.

The nursing program will replace one that began in 1959 under the leadership of the Louise Obici Memorial Hospital and had been co-sponsored by the hospital and Suffolk Public Schools. The school system cut the program from its budget last year, and until Birdsong stepped in, it looked as if people in Suffolk wishing to pursue a career in nursing would have to travel to Franklin or Portsmouth for their classes.

Birdsong’s generous contribution, however, will bring the program back home and ensure that Suffolk students have the broadest educational opportunities possible, right here at home. That’s the kind of dedication to hometown that has made the Birdsong name one of Suffolk’s most respected and loved.