Quality senior care for Robeson County: A conversation with GlenFlora’s Austin Locklear

Exactly halfway between New York and Florida, on North Carolina’s dark and scenic Lumbee River, lies the sleepy city of Lumberton. As the name would suggest, Lumberton has long been a base for North Carolina’s logging industry – though these days it works hard to draw tourist traffic from nearby I-95.

The seat of Robeson County, Lumberton is also home to GlenFlora, which has provided high-quality care to local seniors for over 70 years. Executive Director Austin Locklear was with GlenFlora when it first became affiliated with LSC in 2019, and he has remained at the helm since it merged with LSC in 2022.

For Locklear, it’s about caring for the community. He was born and raised in Robeson County, and he is also a member of the Lumbee Tribe – a Native American tribe that makes up 40 percent of the county’s population.

“The Lumbee were recognized by the State of North Carolina in 1885, but we are still fighting for federal recognition,” he notes.

The Lumbees’ struggle for federal benefits and the extremely rural nature of the county make for challenging economics, Locklear explains.

“Robeson County is the largest geographic county in North Carolina and also one of the poorest,” he says. “More people are moving out than moving in, which makes it harder to hire and keep qualified teammates.”

The economic situation also means limited options for quality senior care, which makes Locklear’s work even more vital.

“Our residents are diverse, but almost all are from Robeson County. Several teammates have family members here, and my grandmother lives here,” he explains. “We treat everyone like family.”

GlenFlora’s activities reflect its commitment to the LSC Way. Residents and teammates celebrate Juneteenth together, and plans are in the works for Hispanic and Native American heritage celebrations. Residents recently spruced up the patio gardens for Earth Day, and teammates cheerfully lined up to donate blood in January.

For Locklear, long-term care is more than a job; it’s a calling. “I worked as a server at Cypress Glen [a continuing care retirement community in Greenville, N.C.] while I was an undergrad at East Carolina University, and I found I really loved giving back to residents. I became a nursing home Administrator in Training while pursuing my Master of Public Health degree.”

Beyond GlenFlora, Locklear is a rising community leader. “I am a past president of the Lumberton Rotary Club, and I was just appointed to Robeson County Community College’s Board of Directors, which I’m really excited about,” he says.

Locklear also makes time for fun, which includes golfing, going to the gym, and taking walks with his wife and his dog.

“And then there’s my Mustang,” he adds with obvious emotion. “I have a custom built ’04 Mach 1. I love speed.”

The Lumbee’s still waters run deep in Austin Locklear.

A young man in a blue T-shirt stands in front of a red Mustang 2004 Mach I.