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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Martina Dunford, February 18, 1999. Interview K-0142. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Programs for children at the community center

Dunford describes some of the work she did as the program director of the Edgemont Community Center for the children in the community. In identifying some of the problems children and adolescents were experiencing, she describes how the Center sought to provide them with opportunities they otherwise wouldn't have. In addition, she expresses her hope that the Center could help foster a sense of community solidarity, which she sees as the most important factor in community survival.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Martina Dunford, February 18, 1999. Interview K-0142. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

You've seen a lot of changes with children growing up in the community. What are the ways in which the community has changed in a good sense and what are the ways in which it's not made the changes you'd like to see happen? And that could be Durham as a whole or Northeast Central Durham, Edgemont, Few Gardens.
I think as a unit they've come together more over the years. There's less crime; there's less police activity that comes through. At one point in time they were out here four and five times a day. Now you may see them once a week or twice a week. It depends. Something like that. So there are some positive things that have happened. Parents—some parents are starting to get more involved with the children, and the kids are doing a lot of activities. And we're getting the opportunity to provide them with chances—I mean opportunities and stuff—outside the building which gives them morale to build on everything. But the negative is that the majority of the people that are now moving in are younger than the people who used to be here, and that's scary because the average age of a person who is renting an apartment is now probably nineteen. That's young when they have less than an eighth grade education for many of them and babies—teen moms—because they're rearing kids without all the tools that they need to apply it to their children. And their kids are coming up that way. That's what's scary, and that's what we're fighting—not fighting, trying to deal with—to figure out how to fix that so the children don't suffer in the long run. So we've done a lot of things with the children here. We spend a lot of time with them as much as we can. We don't work on Saturdays and Sundays, thank you Jesus. We try not to, but there's activities. So if we get tickets to a performance, a drama, we'll go—make arrangements to go. We just don't do it every weekend. Then like we just took on a new initiative at the beginning of February that every other Friday night we play bingo with the community. We oversee that, and make sure that happens and runs properly.
And where does that actually take place?
In the building next to us. That's Parks and Recreation building over there. We go over there and set up and run that program over there. So it's—we take a lot of out of town trips on weekends, and do fundraisers. We're planning to take the older teens, like fifteen and up. Those are positive people talking about positive things. Those people are planning a spring break vacation in Myrtle Beach. So we try to get them out and see opportunities and things like that they can know. It's been good to see them grow up. And some—like I said, some are doing well and some are not doing so well. My personal feeling is that once you provide them with tools and opportunities and knowledge, and you chose not to direct your path in a certain way, then you're held responsible for that. Not that in so many ways to look at it—because God knows if I tell you and you're not getting it at home, and you're not getting it at church, and you're not getting it at school, you're not getting it from every adult that you run into. Sometimes it's not embedded. See when we came up during the day everybody said the same thing; you know, was on the same page. So it's like this can't be wrong, or you didn't think about going in a different direction, because everybody was saying the same thing. Now there's different avenues and different ways—people are everywhere, thinking all sorts of different stuff. That's what's scary.
What do you think makes a strong community? What would you like to see for the community?
I would like to see a more cohesive, a much more cohesive community with emphasis and goals and places they want to go and be and see. And make it happen. That would be the ideal community. Stay here for a little while. Come in and get what you need—get nurtured, or nourishment or knowledge, or whatever it is that you need. Get your GED, your high school diploma, and understand that college probably is a good opportunity. But if it's a trade that you need, then go do it and go after it. The laziness and the more laid back because of technology and everything—someone was telling me the other day that now they have the venetian blinds, blinds that operate by remote control. Jesus—what is next? I mean, if you got to go to the bathroom, the bathroom will come to you. That kind of thing. It's that. Those are viable techniques that they don't have that we have that was in existence at one time. Because you're going to have to be able to make it one way or another, especially in Y2K. Jesus. You have got to be able to survive. I don't know what's going to happen. I'm not even going to sit here and try to predict what's going to happen. But whatever happens, you need to be prepared for it. Not even then but even now, because those same things that you're going to need to survive with then, you need now.