The Rant’s Gordon Anderson and Richard Sullins at the North Carolina Press Association banquet in Raleigh on Thursday.

The Rant’s series of stories involving a proposed “Dream Center” in Sanford and the eventual fallout from the Lee County Board of Commissioners’ approval (and eventual repeal) of a $500,000 grant to a nonprofit run by a local church earned a second place award in “general news” from the North Carolina Press Association Thursday night.

The Rant received three awards in all — the others in headline writing and serious columns — and received them during the NCPA’s annual banquet in Raleigh. After earning six awards in 2022, The Rant now has nine state awards for its news coverage since joining the NCPA in 2021.

Richard Sullins led The Rant’s coverage of the Dream Center series, which included roughly 15 stories on Life Springs Church’s attempt expand its Dream Center program — which is focused on preventing human trafficking, providing education and therapeutic activities — and build an $800,00 community center, much of which would have been funded by the grant. The commissioners’ approval of the grant despite no public feedback or event internal discussion raised eyebrows, and the board earned criticism when it was learned the Life Springs Foundation didn’t have the proper IRS approval as a nonprofit agency and that its director was facing federal Medicare fraud charges from 2021 (of which he pleaded guilty to in January).

Rant co-founders and writers Gordon Anderson and Billy Liggett also contributed to the Dream Center coverage.

The Rant faced several statewide online news organizations in its category. The award in the coveted “general news” category was much appreciated, according Anderson.

“It’s always an honor to be recognized for our peers for our work,” Anderson said. “Richard, in particular, over the last year did an excellent job documenting an important story in Lee County that absolutely deserved the acclaim it received. San Dimas High School football rules.”

Liggett earned a second place and third place award for headline writing and serious column writing, respectively.

“I write headlines not because I feel like a story needs them, but because I want to win more awards,” he said. “Don’t print that.”