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Interview with Annie M. Anthony,  June 16 2009 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

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Interview with Annie M. Anthony,  June 16 2009
June 16 2009
Annie Anthony grew up in PA. attended Penn State, met her future husband moved to South Carolina, "ate up southern culture" but did not put down roots in Wilmington until 1980's. Annie has been a committed volunteer since organising a Homeowners group in area she lived. Describing herself as "Passionate" about her work, has been associated with schools starting Concerned Citizens For Community Schols, the Junior League, started Science Curriculum for Children's Museum, worked with DREAMS, became 50th Pres. on 50th anniversary United Way, and after Hurricane Fran began a program matching needs of people with volunteers. Some programs are Carenet, Service Learning, Big Buddy, Kids Voting, and others maintaining an organization capable of meeting needs of non-profit community. An interesting concept filling a void for a growing population, administered by a dedicated director.
Phys. Desc:

Interviewee: Anthony, Annie M. Interviewer: Jones, Carroll / Edwards, Deborah Date of Interview: 6/16/2009 Series: SENC Notables Length 57 minutes

Jones: --16th 2009. I'm Carroll Jones, with Debbie Edwards, for the University of North Carolina Wilmington Oral History project. And we are now in the Helen Hagen room in Special Collections. Our guest this afternoon is Annie Anthony, from the Cape Fear Volunteer Center. Helping to connect volunteers to the right opportunity in several programs addressing, quote, "the goal of strengthening ties between volunteer services, churches, and civic groups." Is that right?

Anthony: That's part of it, yeah.

Jones: Okay. Welcome, and thanks for visiting us, Annie. I looked at your website, and it's very impressive. I do have a question. How do you keep up with all the programs?

Anthony: I don't know. I was talking to God about it today. And I said that it's a little overwhelming. I need some more people to help me. Please send them.

Jones: That is a website to blow your mind. Well, why don't you just be comfortable. Tell us a little bit about yourself, how you got here, and how you became involved with the Cape Fear Volunteer Center. And then, you can tell us all about it.

Anthony: Well, I grew up in Pennsylvania. I'm one of four children, born to Rita and John, in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, outside Philadelphia. And it's right near Valley Forge. And graduated in '79 to a high school that was in a bit of turmoil. Our superintendent murdered a couple of our English Professors.

Jones: That's turmoil.

Anthony: And yeah, it was some of our AP Professors. And it was the topic of some good books and a movie. But went on to Penn State for my freshman year, got into main campus. I thought I was going to major in Psychology, was dating a boy, Gary. And didn't really think that I wanted to be away from him. He was majoring in Engineering. He couldn't get into Penn State main campus, and so he went to the University of South Carolina. So I was using up a lot of my student loan money flying back and forth. So my parents were--I was the first generation female to go to college. So they didn't really believe in girls going to school. I'm from Italian Irish immigrant merger, so me being in college, at all, was--

Jones: I can figure out your parents, right away.

Anthony: Yeah, so they, kind of, weren't really in favor of me being in college anyway. Let alone . . .

Jones: Get married, have children.

Anthony: Be a secretary was the goal. So me being in college was a rarity, let alone then, telling them I wanted to move to South Carolina to chase after a boy. So I took what student loan money I had, and I moved to Columbia, South Carolina and enrolled in South Carolina. And soon became enthralled in sorority life. I became a Kappa Kappa Gamma. And decided to major in Criminal Justice and Government. And luckily, Penn State back then, was on trimesters. So I transferred in a little ahead of the curve with more credits than I needed to be just a sophomore. I was already heading into towards being a junior. And I decided that I would be a leader on campus, and decided that I would start Alpha Phi Sigma, the Criminal Justice Honor Society. Decided I'd do, kind of, a campus government. Decided I'd be a hall advisor.

Jones: Gosh.

Anthony: Decided I'd run for officer in the sorority. I guess, I decided I was going to do the leader path.

Jones: When did you go to school? When did you go to class?

Anthony: I carried 21 hours. I worked full time, because I needed to pay my own way, because the parents had decided chasing after the boy was a bad idea.

Jones: Right.

Anthony: Got engaged as soon as I moved down there.

Jones: To the same guy?

Anthony: To the boy.

Jones: That's good.

Anthony: And we continued on the path. He graduated--I got an internship at the State Legislature, where I assisted in writing the Rape Law for South Carolina. And enjoyed college very, very much. Enjoyed the southern culture. Found out how southern families were and how they ate dinner together on Sundays. Found out that they told each other that they loved each other.

Jones: Quietly.

Anthony: Our families didn't do that up north. There wasn't a demonstrative love shown. They didn't-- you didn't sit on your daddy's lap. You didn't-- there wasn't the overt helping of each other. There weren't the customs, like I saw, that when you got engaged you displayed wedding gifts. There were the showers and the parties and getting lavaliered, and all of the traditions of sorority life and southern families. And we ate it up, my husband and I. Well, he was my fiance back then. We just loved it. And I think that Gary decided that he'd like to raise his family in the south, although, I hadn't completely bought into that. I was offered a scholarship . . .

Jones: What was he in school--?

Anthony: Engineering.

Jones: Okay.

Anthony: So he was a lot different than I was. But we definitely were in love, and we were planning the future and planning the wedding for right after graduation. I ran into a little snafu where I was one class shy of graduating when he graduated. But he was, like, "Well, we need to get married." Because he had gotten a job with Stone and Webster in Boston. And he was, like, "Well, we need to go. And you need to just take a correspondence class and finish." And I was, like--and so at that point, that's what I did. And it was disappointing, to say the least.

Jones: I imagine. I can imagine.

Anthony: And, you know, I wore the cap and gown and pictures, like I had graduated. But the pigskin was not in the packet. And I finished, but it was disappointing. But I went on to apply for law school and got in to some schools. But then, after a couple of years, right when I was about to start, he got transferred to Virginia. And I was going to go to New England School of Law. And we were going to do a commuting marriage, and I got pregnant with twins. And at that point, I was just too sick to go from Boston to Virginia. And they gave me all my money back but $300, and said, "Come see us in the future." And so I think it was God deciding that, you know, the marriage wouldn't have held up through it.

Jones: Just some things, you can book.

Anthony: Yeah, one of the twins did not make it, but I got a beautiful daughter out of the first gestation. And we started traveling for his job. He was a Nuclear Engineer at the time. And we started moving all over the country, which was a grand adventure. And we moved from Boston to Virginia.

Jones: Now, this was in what period of time, the '80s?

Anthony: Mid-'80s, starting in the mid-'80s into the '90s.

Jones: When nuclear engineering was really getting hot.

Anthony: Really hot. And he was a Nuclear Engineering Consultant for Stone and Webster. And they paid pretty well back then, because they gave you a per diem, in addition to your salary. And so we were living the life of Riley, I call it. And we saw the country, kind of, in an extended tourist kind of a way. But he worked a lot, so I was alone a lot. So I filled my life with joining Kappa's groups, joining newcomers groups. If there wasn't a newcomers group or a Kappa group, I started one. Just filled my life with whatever, you know, there was.

Jones: So you didn't go to lunch with the girls and swap baby stories?

Anthony: Some of that. Swapped recipes, wrote cookbooks, you know, whatever there was.

Jones: I don't know how you had time.

Anthony: Whatever there was that I could do. Went from Virginia back to Boston. Then, Connecticut, Connecticut to Illinois, Tennessee, Texas. Did not like Texas. We were only there a brief period of time. And then, after that I told him I had pretty much had enough. And wanted to go closer to home so that I could see family again, go to, like, baby showers and weddings, and do some of that stuff.

Jones: Hang curtains.

Anthony: No. I didn't really need to hang curtains. But I, kind of, just wanted to be a little closer to family. So we landed in Maryland, where he could work at Peach Bottom. And we lived there, and he went independent. We set it up as a company underneath me, with me being the President, so we could be a minority company, and so I could do the books and, you know, do a little bit of that stuff. Made even more money than we had ever made as an independent contractor.

Jones: What part of Maryland was this?

Anthony: Bel Air, Maryland, outside of Baltimore. So we were nestled between Delaware, Pennsylvania, Washington. It was a great place to be.

Jones: That corridor.

Anthony: And hour and 15 from our family. So Mom couldn't just drop by, but we were close enough to go home for Sunday dinner. At that point, I had been suffering from secondary infertility, so passionately pursuing having more children, as I had been for several years. Finally, after surgery after surgery after surgery after surgery, disappointment after disappointment, pursued what's called IUI, Inner Uterine Insemination. Got pregnant with twins.

Jones: You're a twin gal.

Anthony: Definitely. Well, this took. And in the fall of '90 birthed a boy/girl set. Which set us on an interesting path, as they were not healthy. The boy ended up-- Gregory, he ended up having problems at the beginning. But the girl, she ended up having a catastrophic heart disorder. Which I tell you all this because once she had her repair, in the winter of '91, where she died on the table, but they brought her back. Once we survived all of that in the April of '91, people told us, Dean and Debbie Hutchens, they said, "You have got to go on a vacation. And you have got to go to Kure Beach, North Carolina, and take a rest." And so we brought our family to Kure Beach to recover. And my husband fell in love. And he was, like, "I think we have to move there." And I did not want to go. I was, like, "I don't want to leave Maryland. I don't want to leave my family." I had had my little home five and a half years, I had lived there. I had built a wonderful fan of friends, and I had my routine. And now, I had my babies. And I just wanted to--I had my doctors. I mean, my daughter, my God, she had her cardiologist. This hospital didn't even have, like, a person that could do an I.V. on a baby of my baby's size. We didn't have a helicopter that went from here to Duke. How could I bring my baby here? She won't survive this place. Well, sure enough, he was determined. He got a contractor job with Southport, and he made us move here. He came--I didn't even come here to look for a house. I was, like, "Well, you go find it. You go find it. I need a window over the kitchen sink." You know, and I didn't even come see the house until he moved us here. And he found our first house that we bought, because we had never stayed anywhere long enough to own. We were young. I mean, we were still young. We were in our--I think I was, maybe, 30, 31--30. And--

Jones: That's young.

Anthony: Yeah. But we got a beautiful home. It was before the big bust in real estate. It was just after College Road had gone to four lanes. They were doing the construction when we came on vacation. And my home was lovely. It was so big. I couldn't even fill--I didn't even have enough furniture to fill it. And the kids were still babies, in his arms. And my oldest was just in second grade, I think. Maybe not yet, maybe not even just starting. And she started Pine Valley. She stayed there her whole elementary education. I started with the PTA and became their volunteer coordinator. I worked with--Diane Avery was over the volunteer coordinators then. I was passionate about volunteers. There was no Kappa group here, so I started a Kappa group. There was no alumni panalinic. We ended up, now we have an alumni panalinic. I decided to join the Junior League. And the Junior League, over time, ended up being one of the best decisions I ever made in my training to be a leader.

Jones: Did you live in Pine Valley at that time?

Anthony: I lived in what's called Pine Valley Extension.

Jones: Right, okay.

Anthony: Oxford Place. And there were no houses behind me. My road did not go through. We ended up--one of the other big activist things I did was start Concerned Citizens for Community Schools. Because, you know, there was all this redistricting stuff that happened.

Jones: That was in the '90s?

Anthony: Yeah, there was this big redistricting thing that happened.

Jones: That was when they started building schools again, yeah.

Anthony: Yeah, and they wanted to redistrict our kids to go far away from home. But when I started that it was eye opening. Because then, it made me go look at all the schools that were here, and find out that all of our schools were not created equal. Snipes did not have the books that--Sunset did not have a library like my children had a library. And Snipes smelled like urine in the hallways. And it was, like, well, no wonder they don't want their children--they don't want things to happen, and they don't want to have my children stay in their neighborhood schools. They want me to come to their school so that I can help effect change. And so I needed to work with, like, the Forest Hills people to help effect change. And so instead of just meeting in our neighborhood, I held the meetings in Snipes. And I held the meetings in Sunset. So that we could effect change. And so I became more aware of what was going on.

Jones: Annie, I've got to stop you a minute. Tell me what group were you with at that time when you were doing this?

Anthony: I started Concerned Citizens for Community Schools.

Jones: Okay. That's just okay.

Anthony: We didn't get our 501c3 or anything. It was just, kind of, like, an activist group.

Jones: By the bootstraps.

Anthony: I also started the Oxford Place Homeowners Association, because they didn't have--the way our--I forget the name of who we are in our neighborhood. But our neighborhood people who build us did not set up a Homeowners Association in there. And so we just couldn't function without having a Homeowners Association. They had covenants, but they didn't have any way to enforce them. So we set up as a social, kind of, Homeowners Association, but with an infrastructure of officers. And so I started that. I'm just a big organization kind of person.

Jones: Just a busybody there, driving people crazy. Okay.

Anthony: No. I don't think I--

Jones: Oh, I'm teasing you.

Anthony: I think some people might think so.

Jones: No, it was needed.

Anthony: It depends.

Jones: You stepped in where you saw there was a need.

Anthony: I didn't, like, and out, like, fines or anything. I did do newsletters. You know, some people thrive off newsletters. Some people thrive off socials. But we definitely didn't enforce any of the stuff, like clotheslines. Or the thing that drove me crazy with that was the garage sales, but I never did anything about those. But--

Jones: Yeah, cars on the lawn.

Anthony: Thank God, none of our people do that. I hope they never get to that point. But I supposed the covenants are there to rescue you, if they get to that point. But you never know what's down the road. So far, everybody still maintains what they need to. But I suppose I could be looked at as a busybody.

Jones: Is this Concerned Citizens for Community Schools still in effect?

Anthony: I suppose we could reactivate it. There have been people that have followed--they don't call it Concerned Citizens for Community Schools. But there were mothers recently that I got flyers in the mail that followed when they were upset about things that reactivated. But they called it something similar, but not--but, you know, when there's a heart and a passion for protecting your young from being moved far away, they go right after that. But I joined the Junior League, let's see, '92, probably, '94. So I did my provisional year. And they started placing me on committees. And I did my committee work, got into the communications area, some other areas. And then, they came to me, and they asked me to be--to help start the Children's Museum. And so I'm the Founding Director of the Cape Fear Volunteer--of the Children's Museum. So the year before I started the Children's Museum, which I opened the Children's Museum October 10 of 1997. The year before that I went around the country, and I looked at Children's Museums. They had had committees for years that it was called Kids Zone. And they had built some exhibits that they kept in storage and would bring out to River Fest and have people play on them. Building enthusiasm for if it would ever come. They had research on could this community support a children's museum. But they never had anyone that would say, "I will commit to go down, find a building, and open it up every day, with a team of volunteers." And I am crazy enough to commit to something like that. So I researched different children's museums around the country. And found, you know, how we could do that. And with another woman, Jennifer Brandenburg Smith, we got a building, the old Rippy Cadillac Building on Market Street. At Tenth and Market. And we put the children's museum in there that summer. And we retrofitted the building. We had to add bathrooms. We worked with Coleman Supply and Bradley Barnes Builders to retrofit the building and make it into a museum. With a bunch of volunteer painters and volunteers to make more exhibits, to get a grocery store together, to make a science exhibit, with our famous battleship that's different than the one they have now. But we had a sand room. We had a medical room. We had a birthday room. And then, with people that would just walk up from off the street, like I would be in my office. And the turning point for that museum was when a woman saw me in my office and knocked on the window. And she said, "Do you have a Science Educator?" And, you know, I didn't, had never even thought about the meat and bones of a children's museum. And she said, "Well, you have no product to bring the schools in, unless you have a science curriculum." And I was, like, "You're right." Well, Frances Weller was due to come interview me, like, a half hour after she walked in the room. So while we're chatting, Frances arrives. And she says, "And who are you?" And I said, "She's my new Science Educator."

Jones: And who was that?

Anthony: Barbara Glover. And she, actually, works with your science teachers here from time to time to educate them. Barbara Glover was a key piece to the success of the museum. Because she became my science educator. She developed a curriculum. I could then, have a reason to charge money for field trips. We tied the science curriculum to the North Carolina science education curriculum. Or else, there would've been no way they would've justified coming to the museum and paying me money. I would've had no reason to--I wouldn't have had any science related stuff on the wind machines or on the tornado things. I mean, I had no idea what I was doing.

Jones: When was this established, Annie?

Anthony: October 10, 1997 we opened the doors.

Jones: Oh, okay. Yeah.

Anthony: And then, she helped me develop the Lego birthday parties. And she helped me have science birthday parties. And we developed the birthday party room. We figured out how to name each room to make it a fundraiser. At first, it was Hannaford's Grocery Store. So Hannaford gave me money to have their name on the rooms.

Jones: Wise move.

Anthony: Yeah, not my idea. Some how it happened. I mean, you know, it ended up being Annie got credit. But, you know, it wasn't--it just was miraculous.

Jones: It was that same voice that had you moving down here.

Anthony: Yeah. And then, the birthday party room, we put their little hands, you know, $5 put your hands on the wall. We'll put your name by it. You know, I mean, just the craziest thing. And it made the room cute. So I mean, it all just was amazing. The dress up room, everything. And then, DREAMS came in and Tracy Wilkes and I shared the office together. And then--

Jones: I'm glad you said that. I'm interviewing her again next week.

Anthony: Yeah, and so DREAMS and I shared the office, at first. And when the children's museum wasn't open, DREAMS was in the back doing the Dreams thing. So we--

Jones: Which is huge, now.

Anthony: Yeah. So we got our start as the Children's Museum. So the first four years of the Children's Museum was spent on Market Street at Tenth. And then, it moved. Well, you know, I only played the beginning phases. Because, you know, I was learning, too. And, you know, you get wrapped up in what you're doing. And, you know, God has you learning. And I was prideful. I was too tied to it. My children were there all the time. I was working all the time. I was--I put some people on that board that, you know, you always think that they're there for the same reason you are, for the benefit of the children, for the benefit of the museum. And you don't look at their true motivation. And I got let go. So . . .

Jones: Really?

Anthony: Yeah.

Jones: I remember when that all took place. And I know some people involved. I had forgotten about this.

Anthony: Well, it actually happened three times to three Directors. So I'm the first. Then, there was a second . . .

Jones: And how long were you there? You opened . . .

Anthony: Several years.

Jones: Okay. So you left there . . .

Anthony: Several years. I'm the first Director.

Jones: . . . 2000, 2001?

Anthony: I think, not--maybe 2000. And then, the second Director came, and she did an excellent job. Excellent job. She took it to the point when they were about ready to open the new baby.

Jones: Over at St. Johns.

Anthony: Yes. Then, they hired another one, made that one move from another state.

Jones: Yeah, I remember that.

Anthony: That one sold their house, moved here, only lasted ten days.

Jones: What was the problem?

Anthony: No idea. All I can tell you is that there's dysfunction. There was dysfunction. I don't know if there still is. But when hearts get broken like that, that's sad. But I learned a great lesson. I learned that I had pride, and I needed to--I was like Nebuchadnezzar and had to be led out to the desert. So that I could learn that when you open an organization, you have to keep your hands open and let it grow. And not try to hold it in your two hands. And so I went out and continued to do the Junior League, and I had to grow.

Jones: Let me ask you something. From what you've been telling me, since we've been sitting here, you have begun a lot of different activities all for the sake of volunteer. And bettering people, children, whatever. And if it does grow and become successful, isn't it like having another child? You want to keep it close to you.

Anthony: Yes. But that's not what we're supposed to do. You have to let it grow and fly.

Jones: Exactly.

Anthony: But you have to learn that. You don't instinctively know it.

Jones: No, I guess not.

Anthony: You have to learn. And I didn't know, because I was young. I was young. And so while I was experiencing all this and licking my wounds, I continued to be with the Junior League and became their President. Which is, like, a two-year process.

Jones: Oh, really? You know Anne Moore?

Anthony: Yes, very well. Anne and I work together. So I became their President. I was their 50th President, during the 50th Anniversary, which was quite an honor. We had great celebrations. And I look back very fondly on that. But when I finished that year, it's, like, going from working an 80-hour a week job, even more than the Children's Museum, and my daughter graduated from high school, my oldest, most precious, baby. Not that the other two aren't, but, you know, they were still going to be there. She was going to be going to Meredith. And it was, like, "Oh, what am I going to do now?" When the United Way came to me, their Community Vice President, Lori Taylor. And she said, "Let's have a conversation." She said, "We have this thing. It's one of our programs called The Volunteer Center." She said, "How would you like to come play with that?" And I said, "Well, what would I need to do?" And she said, "Well, you could come in. We have a little office. And you could just work on it part time whenever you're available." And I said, "Okay." So she told me that what happened was in 1996, we had a little storm here called Hurricane Fran. And this is how I talk about it in my schpiel. In 1996, Hurricane Fran came here, and you, either, stayed or your left. If you stayed, you couldn't get out. And if you left, you couldn't get back. Because we became like an island. And back in 1996, we didn't really have a term that we do now, which we now call the spontaneous volunteer. Spontaneous volunteers started arriving. Now, we had a Salvation Army, and we had a United Way, and we had a Red Cross. But none of them really wanted to necessarily send out spontaneous volunteers. Because they didn't really know if they had liability insurance to cover their actions. They didn't really want to worry about what it is they might do if they were out in the field attempting to help people. So those spontaneous volunteers, kind of, just stood by the wayside, waiting to be of help. But they didn't get used, so they got frustrated.

Another thing that happened with that storm was the people--and this action continues to happen now--is people want to help. So they think, "Oh, people have lost everything. Surely, I have something in my closet I can send so that those people can have clothing." So they clean out their closets, and they send us their clothes. So we became overwhelmed with the amount of clothing people sent to us. So, like in the Midwest when it snows out in Illinois, they take all of the snow, and they pile it in the mall parking lot. And they make a gigantic mountain. So what we did was, since we became overwhelmed with this clothing, they took all of the clothing and they piled it in a parking lot. And they said, "Okay. Surely, someone will distribute this clothing." Well, no one wanted to distribute someone else's old clothing to these people. Because they weren't really sure, okay, who should have the clothing, who's going to distribute it, who's going to make sure it's clean. So let's just put it in this parking lot.

Jones: That's a job.

Anthony: So here in late summer, late after September, whenever that happened, it rains here, it's humid here. So the clothing got rained on, got mildewed, got rotten. So eventually, I don't know who paid for it to get hauled down to the ports, whether it was the city or the county, but someone eventually hauled it down to the ports and it got hauled off to the landfill. So those two travesties happened. So two women, Vicky Dole, who had just finished being president of the Junior League, and Vicky Elmore, who was the current community vice president back in 1997, they decided that this travesty could not happen again. Too much wasted stuff. So they decided they were going to put their heads together and see how they could rectify the situation. Because we are a hurricane magnet, and we will have hurricanes again. So they found that the first President Bush had started something called the Points of Light Foundation. And under the Points of Light Foundation, they had established what a shell structure of a volunteer center would look like. So they said "That's it. That's what we need to bring to Wilmington." So they set it up so that as a program of the United Way, there would be in non-emergent times the vice president of the United Way would match volunteers who called the United Way with one of-- back then, there were 13 United Way agencies. And then in emergent times, there would be a trained phone bank of volunteers who would match up people who wanted help with people who wanted to help. And so they would have those two different programs. So when I came on, that's kind of how it was set up. People would call in through first call for help during Hurricanes and we would match them up with like people who had said through the Red Cross we need help through pink slips. And then in non-emergent times, they would call the United Way and I would match them up with any of the United Way agencies. And we'd say, "Okay, well you call the domestic violence shelter, you call the Salvation Army," and we'd match them up. So I came on in 2003 and that's how it worked. And I got to do a few creative things. I restarted DOVIA, which is Directors of Volunteers in Agencies. I got a Homeland Security Grant, where I got to do--I created a building bridges seminar, where we started working with the churches so that if there was an emergency, we'd have a relationship with those churches. So we knew, okay, you have a gigantic kitchen, you can help cook food. Okay, you have cots, we could put victims there if we overflow shelters. These are the assets you have, these are the assets you have, we all need to talk together. We started working with Emergency Management so that Emergency Management would know a volunteer center is ready to help, so that there was communication. So this was post-9/11, so we began being a potential player in the picture as a helper in communication, just a partner, nothing more than a partner. Not a big partner, just a baby partner. We were working with Carol Field back then. So those were some of the things we did.

As part of DOVIA, Directors of Volunteers in Agencies, I became an officer in the North Carolina Association of Volunteer Administrators. As an officer, we were able to bring the state conference here to Wilmington, which was awesome, because it brought revenue dollars here to the city. Our little DOVIA executive committee planned the conference. We had state people, local people be the speakers, one of which was Lynn Farr, our current president of the United Way. That was held at the Hilton. On that given Friday that the conference ended, this is in Spring of 2005, April, I went to log on to the computer to check the Volunteer Center's mail. I couldn't get on. And I called the office to speak to Stephanie, the office administrator. And she said, "Annie, has no one told you what's going on?" And I said, "No." She said, "Annie, you need to talk to someone else." She said, "But Annie, they're not going to have the volunteer center on the server anymore." And I said, "What does that mean?" And she said, "You need to talk to someone else." At that point, Karen Kirk, who was in the Junior League with me, and she was a friend of mine, and she was my immediate supervisor, now, I had never gotten a salary for coming on with the--all of my positions, now I did get paid briefly at the Children's Museum, but the majority of all my positions have always been volunteer. But Karen, but they treated me as an employee. I reported to her and got reviewed by her. So I called Karen and I said, "Karen, what's going on? What does this mean they're not going to have us on the server anymore? Without being on the internet, without having access to email, it would be like we don't exist." She said, "Well--" the then president, now, this is three or four presidents ago. "The then president of the United Way has decided that she doesn't want to have the volunteer center as a service provided by the United Way anymore. She said you can have it if you want." Now, I gave you the history on the Children's Museum to let you know that it was traumatic to leave the Children's Museum. The last thing in the entire world I wanted to do was start another nonprofit.

Jones: I can imagine.

Anthony: It is hard.

Jones: Sure it is.

Anthony: Boards of directors are hard work as an executive director. There are a lot of personalities to work with.

Jones: Oh, God, yes.

Anthony: There's a lot of fundraising to do. There's a lot of paperwork involved in starting a nonprofit. So I got on my knees. And I said, "God, do you want me to start this nonprofit?" And I said, "And if you do, you need to confirm it in three ways within 24 hours." Which is called "laying out your fleece," which I had never done in my life. But I did not want to do that unless I was 100 percent sure this was the direction that he wanted me to go. Now I had three children, a very demanding husband. Very demanding husband who was not exactly happy about all I was doing.

Jones: You gave up a lot to be able to do this.

Anthony: I never perceived it as giving up a lot.

Jones: I know.

Anthony: I think he perceived that he had given up a lot.

Jones: Probably.

Anthony: But much to my surprise, now this is in Spring of 2005. None of us know what's coming. None of us can predict the future. But God very quickly confirmed within 24 hours in three financial ways. I had written, that I had forgotten about, a grant to Wal-Mart. The next day, I got $1,000 from Wal-Mart. I called up Joe Stoner to see if I were to start a company again--he had done the payroll for me at the Children's Museum. I said, "If I were to start a company again, how much would you charge me to do the payroll for this company?" He said, "I'll fax you a proposal." And he faxed me back and the fax said he would do my payroll free for a year. I called up Carlton Fisher. Carlton Fisher is who found the building for us with the Children's Museum at the Rippy Building. And I said, "Carlton, if I were to try to find a building right now to put a company in," I said, "What am I looking at?" And he said, "Annie," he said, "You know, we're doing this Harrelson Building." He said, "First Baptist, you could be in there with all the other nonprofits." He said, "Annie," he said, "I can give it to you for--" he said, "you know, if I were to put you in over here, it'd be X amount per square foot, but I can put you in at the Harrelson Building for nearly nothing." And I was like, "You have got to be kidding me." And I was like, "God, you really want me to do this God? You really want me to do this?" And I was like, "Are you sure?" I was like, "You'd better want me to do this. I'd better not be mishearing you on this." I'm like, "All right." And so I was like, "But I'm going to pick a nicer set of board of directors." I'm like, "I'm going to pick people that love Annie Anthony, God. I'm going to pick people that really like me. I'm not going to pick deep pockets. I'm not going to pick high power people. I'm going to pick volunteer people. I'm going to pick nonprofit people."

Jones: Worker bees.

Anthony: Well, not even worker bees, just big hearts. Just big hearts. Which doesn't always do good for raising money, I'll tell you that. And I said, "And I'm going to approach it with open hands. It's whatever you want to have it do, that's what I'm going to do, and you have to provide for it, because I can't do it. And I'll keep doing it for free. I'll keep doing it until you want." And I figured it would probably take three years for it to turn what I call a profit, which meant probably for me to get any money. I didn't know what was ahead of it. But in September, Hurricane Katrina hit. And we were the agency that handled all the Hurricane Katrina evacuees that came through here.

Jones: Oh really?

Anthony: Now, we used what was called Carlos, who did all of our paperwork to do our 501(c)3. And you know, it takes a couple years to get your 501(c)3 through. Like, you can process it really quickly. I mean, you can get your incorporation papers, you can get your EIN number, you can get the start, in the door.

Jones: You can do that in ninety minutes, right.

Anthony: Right. But to get it through the IRS takes a really long time. Well, when that Hurricane Katrina thing hit and we started handling money and donations and getting their kids into school and working with all the hotels, working with the FEMA thing. And we got a contract with the city, I started feeling really uneasy that that piece of paper was not in the door. So I called up the IRS and I said, "This is what I'm doing here, and I don't have my 501(c)3 through. It's only like in your door." They faxed it to me the next day.

Jones: Great.

Anthony: And I knew we were doing what we were supposed to be doing, and that we were where we were meant to be. And those people kept coming. Now, there have been misunderstandings that I've brought people here, that I bussed them in, that I sent vans down to get them. I did not do that. When you had an established program like we did, where we had a set procedure for when people arrived. Like, we advised people, don't take them in your home. Because we knew there were dangers to that. We had procedures for when they'd arrive, we'd give them X dollars in cash, we'd give them gift certificates, we'd give them clothing, we'd send them to the Housing Authority, we'd send them to DSS for food stamps. I mean, we had a set procedure in place. And it was listed with the Red Cross in Baton Rouge and in New Orleans. I mean, they knew of our program. So when they were closing down the River Center, they had to evacuate those people from the River Center. When you had an established program that was organized, they had it posted. And they were offered one-way plane tickets out to anywhere in the country. And there were a few people that took those one-way plane tickets out to come here. But I never went to get any people. So some people in this town were angry with me that I brought people here. But that's a misunderstanding. But I feel like we were meant to be started for work just like that.

Jones: And this was when, Annie?

Anthony: That was in the Fall of 2005.

Jones: Yeah, okay.

Anthony: And there were more than 700 evacuees that came through here.

Jones: Yeah.

Anthony: And I would say most of them are gone. Not all of them were very good people. There were some criminals, there were some scammers.

Jones: Right, you're going to find that.

Anthony: There were some prostitutes.

Jones: Sure, sure.

Anthony: There were some people that came here just so they could take advantage of the people of this town, which is a shame. I call it the education of Annie.

Jones: Well, probably. But it's evidently been working. I need to ask you a couple of questions on this subject. Today in 2009, just about the middle of the year. What is your mission, let me ask you this. From what I've been reading, you and whoever you have with you have the ability to place people who come to you in the right nonprofit to do their volunteer work. Is that right?

Anthony: Mm-hmm. When people call me, we offer them the opportunity to do several things. They can look on the website. They can look on our subsidiary website,, or they can sit down with me for one-on-one matching. I do a couple of things. I start off by asking them do they consider themselves an inside person or an outside person? Do they consider themselves a team player or a one-on-one person? Do they consider themselves needing to start something at the beginning? Can they jump in, or do they need to see it through to fruition? Then I have a 41-slide Power Point that I go through very quickly. On the back of a piece of paper, I have numbers 1 through 41. I ask the people not to analyze what the slide might be about, just to feel in their heart if it tugs at their heart when they see that picture. The picture depicts different nationalities, different ages, different races, different countries, different projects that exist in this town or maybe somewhere else in the world. And from it, I'm able to tell what might interest those people. And after I'm done flipping through those pictures, I go back through them and I see oh, they want to deal with hurting people. They want to deal with seniors. They want to deal with children. They want to deal with families.

Jones: Makes it easier.

Anthony: And so when they leave me, they leave with a sheet of paper of agencies' names and phone numbers and what part of their heart that agency tugged at, so that when they're calling them, they know that it was mentoring, it appealed to me because I like kids. And they're going to talk to Stephanie, and there is her phone number.

Jones: That really saves them a lot of time. Do they pay a fee for this, or no? No. What's the average age of people who come to you for this service?

Anthony: I work with predominately people 12 to 55. Most people over 55 work with the senior center. I won't not work with someone over 55, but I think most people over 55 know about the senior center. But I have a lot of moms that want their kids to be involved in things. A lot of my people are young, probably 18 to 30. I have a lot of college kids, a lot of college kids.

Jones: Well that's good to know.

Anthony: I have a lot of community service people. A lot of community service people come in to me.

Jones: A lot of museums use those too.

Anthony: Community service is a harder placement to make now than it's ever been before. I'm not quite sure what the phenomena is that's happening right now, whether it's because of the economy and there's more people out there volunteering and they don't need the help. It's something that I think we're going to study nationally.

Jones: That's interesting.

Anthony: But it's harder to make a placement.

Jones: What do you call service learning?

Anthony: Service learning is when we have students who may not know what volunteering is and it's their first exposure to what volunteering is. The schools, or whoever they're working through, administer a pretest to see what their perception of volunteering is. Many think it may be that they get paid. Many think they're going to get compensated in some way. So we see what their attitude--

Jones: Vol-un-teer.

Anthony: See what their attitude is pre. Then you have the experience, whatever it's going to be, whether it involves recycling, painting, doing something at a thrift store. Then you do an analysis post. Have them write an essay. So you get it on paper. Then have a discussion so they can share their thoughts and feelings. Then have them do the experience again or another experience, and continue to learn about giving back to your community in many different ways. That's service learning.

Jones: What's Kids Voting?

Anthony: Kids voting is we're part of the state organization of North Carolina Kids Voting. There's a national organization, and it's where kids ages 5 through 18 get to experience mock voting in elections. This year just about all of our schools participated. They can participate in person or online. We had a gigantic turnout this year, and pretty much everyone voted for Barack Obama. They can vote for just president, or we had actual paper ballots. Our ballots mirror the adult ballots, with the exception that we provide pictures of the candidates, so the kids can identify with who they've been seeing on TV. We have little cardboard booths for the kids to use in the schools. Many of the schools really get into it, so that they can decorate the booths. And we had, at Mary C. Williams, the mayor came out and read Duck for President. And a lot of the student councils get into it and have a cake, have special luncheons. The kids might wear red, white and blue. It's all nonpartisan. Just prior to a few weeks ago, we were included in the state budget, but we have now been cut. So it's going to be a little tougher. We are tied to the North Carolina state curriculum, so we do give the teachers curriculum that they can use in their classroom. We tie it all the way through the inauguration, with ideas of how they can teach about the inauguration.

Jones: Well that's good that they're doing that. And how about Care Net?

Anthony: Care Net is our section where we have people that do donate food to give to people in need. We have people that have donated dollars to have people that may have been homeless. Like in the past, we've had a homeless family of seven that was on the street in the winter. And they fell through the gap, where they weren't married, didn't have birth certificates, so they couldn't get into the shelters, so they were on the street. And so we put them in a hotel for a month until they could get relatives to get enough money to get them out of town and into a better situation. And we make referrals to other agencies.

Jones: Okay, I was going to ask you that.

Anthony: A lot of times, they just don't know where to call. And somehow they hear volunteer, or people will tell them the Volunteer Center helps people because they know about our work from Katrina. And they somehow end up on our doorstep. We've helped people maybe get a bike if they don't have a way to get around to get to work. Somehow, we may know the right referral to make.

Jones: Are you still getting funding or protection from United Way?

Anthony: Oh no. We've never gotten anything from the United Way.

Jones: Okay. How about with churches? Do you work with churches?

Anthony: We work with all of the churches.

Jones: All of them. On a referral basis? Do they refer people to you or do you use some of their people that are members?

Anthony: We use their people to execute projects. We have used their funding. We have a program called Reach the Beach, which is where we refurbish needy people's homes. We paint the inside, the outside, we build wheelchair ramps. Every other summer, we bring in 450 Christian teenagers to do it one week in the summer. And we've partnered with Wrightsville Beach United Methodist, Wrightsboro, Port City Community Church.

Jones: That's a big one.

Anthony: Yeah, yeah. And Global River's going to partner with us next year. So we stay at Ashley High School. And we send out the kids, we break them into teams. And we partner local volunteers with the adult volunteers from outside of the area along with these churches to get these projects done. There's no fee to any of the local residents. We also work with WARM, Wilmington Area Rebuilding Ministry, to execute these projects, and the local historic agency to try to get some of the homes that are in those local zones that they want targeted.

Jones: Have you ever work with Habitat for Humanity?

Anthony: We do work with Habitat, but more to send people to work with them.

Jones: Okay.

Anthony: They don't really have the homes that we're trying to execute. Because they're from the ground up, versus from--these are more seniors, ill people that need their homes that are already existing worked on.

Jones: Well, that's pretty widespread.

Anthony: Yeah. We'd like the homes to be within 30 minutes.

Jones: How do you feel about yourself now? Except exhausted.

Anthony: No, I'm not exhausted. Right now our focus is on mentoring a lot, with Big Buddies now inside us.

Jones: I've got that down here.

Anthony: So, yeah. We work primarily--I'd like to see that waiting list shorter. We have 77 kids waiting on the waiting list. We have a program inside us called outside the walls, where we're partnering with the Wilmington Leadership Foundation. They have a national mentoring grant. And we're trying to get 100 mentors a year over the next three years.

Jones: Now, is this part of the Big Buddy process, or alongside of it?

Anthony: It's alongside of it.

Jones: Okay.

Anthony: It's one of our other programs that compliments the Big Buddy process. They recruit to partner with the Big Buddies.

Jones: What age group are you talking about?

Anthony: Five to eighteen, to give buddies to the 5 to 18 year olds. So the buddies need to be 18. So I'd like to see the Big Buddy waiting list go down. How do I feel about myself? I'm excited to see the staff size has grown. It's not just me anymore, which is good. I think that the public identification of what the Volunteer Center is and does needs to grow. I need dollars to solidify the security of the Volunteer Center. I would like to draw a salary one day so that I have life security. I don't think the public knows that I don't draw a salary, so that's just fine. It can stay that way. But for retirement, it would be good.

Jones: All right. Do you get any help from Junior League?

Anthony: The Junior League helps execute National Make a Difference Day. So that's a good help, because National Make a Difference Day is a big thing for the community, I'd like to see it grow. I think the Junior League is in a transition time.

Jones: Yeah, they are I think. I think a lot of them are.

Anthony: I'm still on active with them.

Jones: Are you?

Anthony: I don't want to go sustainer, because I want to show the actives that they don't need to quit. It's not that big of a deal to stay being a member. I mean, they can--

Jones: Well, they have a cut off age?

Anthony: No, they do not.

Jones: Not anymore, they used to.

Anthony: We eliminated it before I was president.

Jones: Yeah. I got caught in that. Also moving around. But anyway.

Anthony: It's too easy to stay active.

Jones: Yeah.

Anthony: It's a shame. They need to do more, they need to publicize what it is that they do. And then they need to find a new project to get the public excited about them.

Jones: Yeah. Annie, you're a dynamic speaker. I mean, you can instill people. I'm sitting here trying to figure out how much of your life has been spent in trying to help other people, in volunteer work. I'm just guessing that it's been a good 35 plus years, from your very young years.

Anthony: I don't know, I don't know. I'm only 48.

Jones: Well, I'm going back to the '70s, when you said you were in college.

Anthony: Probably. I guess I was always a Girl Scout. Probably ever since I've been a Brownie. Probably all my life.

Jones: You're always going to be a mom.

Anthony: I am going to be a mom.

Jones: You're always going to be a mom.

Anthony: My kids are 18 though now, so my next thing is to head to Africa July 1. So I'm taking it international now. So we'll see what that means.

Jones: I can hardly wait.

Anthony: I don't know. We'll see what God has planned.

Jones: I can hardly wait. Well, I thank you for coming. I wish we had more time. But I'll tell you what--you're not going to stay in Africa, are you?

Anthony: No. Only 16 days. Africa and Amsterdam. But it'll be interesting to see where the company goes from here.

Jones: When you come back and you get yourself going, and maybe we'll talk again.

Anthony: Sure.

Jones: But I want you to keep in touch.

Anthony: Sure. Thank you. I'd be interested to see who you've talked to, and if there's anything I need to know about them.

Jones: I'll send you an email with some names.

Anthony: Great, great. Thank you very much for this opportunity.

Jones: Oh, it's been good. It's been very good. Thanks.

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