Tell us a little bit about yourself and your work.
I am a native of Columbus County and the executive director of the Columbus County DREAM (Developing Resilience through Enrichment, Awareness, and Motivation) Center, Inc. located in Whiteville, NC.
Columbus County DREAM Center, Inc. has promoted the empowerment of youth, families, and communities in rural southeast NC since 1991. The DREAM Center also addresses many of the underlying causes of substance abuse: poor health, lack of education, and unemployment.
What are the significant needs in your community, and how are organization and individuals working to meet those needs?
The needs of the community are abundant. The county struggles with low per capita income and various socio-economic challenges and risk factors contributing to poverty. These include persistent and severe health issues, poor school attendance, poor nutrition, mental stress, child maltreatment, crime, and low literacy skills among many residents.
The DREAM Center and the many interconnecting agencies and organizations continue to identify community needs while providing programming, training, and resources that address these risk factors.
Why is this work personally important to you?
As a community leader, I represent the voice of the people we serve, and advocate for marginalized populations to promote positive change.
Sir Winston Churchill once said, “You make a living by what you get; you make a life by what you give.” Community organizations, such as the DREAM Center, play a vital role in building healthy communities by providing essential services that contribute to economic stability and mobility. This work is personally important because I wish to have a life that reflects making a difference. I want to be the change I want to see in the world.
What obstacles have you faced while getting the work established? What did you do to overcome them?
The DREAM Center continues to face long-standing challenges. Poverty, institutional racism, poor graduation rates, substance abuse, few job opportunities, infant mortality rate, and lack of public transportation have all hindered previous community work.
We’ve overcome those obstacles by providing education, resources, mentorship, incentives, transportation assistance, and building a network to provide services to enhance the quality of life. However, there is still work to do.
When thinking about your work, what gives you hope?
Hearing success stories from past and present clients gives me hope. Knowing that this small organization’s work over the past 30 years has positively impacted the lives of families and contributed to community development reassures me that the work is not in vain. Meeting people where they are and promoting healthy behaviors gives me hope that we are fulfilling our organization’s mission: “Prevention Now, Wellness and Success Forever!”