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Interview with Delilah B. Blanks, June 28, 2006 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

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Title:
Interview with Delilah B. Blanks, June 28, 2006
Date:
June 28, 2006
Description:
Dr. Delilah Blanks taught social work from 1972-1992. Her first class was an evening course in introductory social work. Dr. Blanks earned her Ph.D. in health education from UNC-Chapel Hill in 1982. Her earlier degrees are an M.S.W. from UNC and a bachelor's degree from Shaw University. While at UNCW she developed and expanded the Social Work curriculum. She also worked with Ralph Parker, director of the Office of Minority Affairs, to retain and recruit minority students from the region. Dr. Blanks reflects on her students, the classes she taught, and the role of the university in the region. Since 1988, she has consistently been elected to the Bladen County Board of Commissioners. She discusses the issues she addresses as a County commissioner. Dr. Blanks has held leadership positions in state and national professional organizations; for example, she has served as president of the NC Association of County Commissioners.
Phys. Desc:

Interviewee: Blanks, Delilah Interviewer: Riggins, Adina Date of Interview: 6/28/2006 Series: Voices of UNCW Length: 1 hour, 19 minutes

Riggins: My name is Adina Riggins. I'm the university archivist. I'm very pleased today to have a very welcome guest who will be talking to us about her times at the university as well as other times. State your name.

Delilah Blanks: Uh.. My name is Delilah Blanks.

Riggins: Thank you, Dr. Blanks. I have in my notes here that you were a professor of social work from 1972 to 1992 and that's 20 years but we're not going to be focusing on dates. Like I said, we're going to be talking about the stories but one thing I do want to state that I forgot to mention at the very beginning is today's date because we like to have that for the record for our oral history program and university archives. Today is June 28, 2006, and we're in the Randall Library conference room in Wilmington, North Carolina. Dr. Blanks, for the tape and for the future students and researchers who will be hearing this tape or listening to the transcript, where were you born and where did you grow up?

Delilah Blanks: I was born in Bladen County, North Carolina, uh.. a small town called Acme- uh.. Acme, A-c-m-e-- It's since that time changed to Riegelwood- and was changed to Riegelwood because of a mill village. A large paper mill has since located there. It's presently known as Riegelwood, North Carolina.

Riggins: The mill owner was a Riegels or that was--

Delilah Blanks: I'm not sure. Since that time International Paper Company has purchased--

Riggins: Is that still the dominant--

Delilah Blanks: It's the dominant industry in the small village there.

Riggins: And employer. There still is an Acme, isn't there, or is it not really--

Delilah Blanks: There was an Acme Fertilizer plant but since that time it has been discontinued and the post office has been discontinued so it's Reigelwood, known as Reigelwood.

Riggins: When you grew up there was no paper mill there?

Delilah Blanks: There was no paper mill. There was no Reigelwood. Just the fertilizer plant and they- it was a agricultural community.

Riggins: What was the farming at the time?

Delilah Blanks: The primary farming products were tobacco, corn, and soybeans.

Riggins: I don't think of tobacco as being this far east but I guess in that part of the region it grows well--

Delilah Blanks: Tobacco was and continues to be the largest cash crop. Of course, it's- it's uh.. being replaced by the corn industry and soybeans with some blueberries in the other part of Bladen County.

Riggins: What was it like growing up for you? Did you grow up in a farming family?

Delilah Blanks: I grew up in a large family on a 75 acre farm and again the primary product grown was the tobacco. My father had six acres of tobacco.

Riggins: How many of you all continued in farming--

Delilah Blanks: No one continued in farming. The farm is leased out.

Riggins: Why is that--

Delilah Blanks: Uh.. It was hard, long, laborious work, predawn hours 'til late night, so--

Riggins: The children--

Delilah Blanks: The children decided they did not want to be farmers, so they went off and were educated and got into more professional areas, teaching, nursing and my brothers went into the military.

Riggins: With farming, it's also so dependent on external factors like weather and there's a lot of stress I would think with that--

Delilah Blanks: External factors and eh.. low profit margin (laughs) and- and uh..--

Riggins: A small farm--

Delilah Blanks: Small farmers.

Riggins: For you growing up, did your family have animals that you tended to also and--

Delilah Blanks: M- My father didn't raise animals for the market, uh.. just for uh.. family consumption, hogs and chickens for family consumption, but uh.. the primary uh.. market product was the tobacco and some corn.

Riggins: It sounds like it was a small town that you grew up in where you knew everyone and life centered around the church. Is that right?

Delilah Blanks: Life centered around the church and school activities. Basketball was the sports at the high school.

Riggins: What about after high school? What did you do after that?

Delilah Blanks: After high school, I went off to Shaw University during the school year and uh.. during the summer months I went to New York, uh.. Brooklyn, worked over in New York City at Barnabus House for three years.

Riggins: What is that--

Delilah Blanks: It was a home for children, uh huh. I worked there as an assistant counselor.

Riggins: Are these orphans or children--

Delilah Blanks: Uh.. It was a large foster care facility, uh huh.

Riggins: Not much time to help out on the farm if you're in New York--

Delilah Blanks: Not much, that I could leave the farm and leave (laughs) the county, and I went to New York City with the relatives and uh.. worked in New York City.

Riggins: Before you left home, how much did all the children participate in the farm life? Was that--

Delilah Blanks: The children participated early on. Uh.. Each one had a chore and was assigned to-- The older children would look after the smaller children. While uhm.. my mother was the cook; my father took the older children and were in the fields so each one had some- was assigned a task, and as early as they could they would leave home. They-- Eh.. My brothers would-- They joined the military and uh.. the others of us went off to college and finally my dad gave it up and leased the farm out.

Riggins: At Shaw University, what did you study there?

Delilah Blanks: I did a double major in English and social studies uh.. and did three jobs m- in order to complete my education starting 5 o'clock in the morning, uptown Raleigh at the Mayo Center, and ended 11 o'clock at night as an assistant to the dean of women.

Riggins: That was to support yourself--

Delilah Blanks: That was to support myself in order to stay in school.

Riggins: What was your intention? Were you thinking about teaching or were you thinking about social services--

Delilah Blanks: During that time the two professions that uh.. minority women aspired to primarily were-- The two professions were teaching and nursing.

Riggins: What were you thinking about at the time?

Delilah Blanks: I was thinking about nursing until I finally decided I was not strong enough (laughs) to engage in that profession, so I ended up uh.. in the teaching profession.

Riggins: Strong physically or strong--

Delilah Blanks: Well, once I saw some of the uh.. procedures that nurses were exposed to, I decided I was not strong enough to- to uh.. cope with some of the procedures that they were asked to do so I decided that uh.. I'd stay with the teaching profession.

Riggins: Working in foster care in the summers, how did that influence--

Delilah Blanks: I liked that because uh.. I was engaged with the children, counseling and- and uh.. some of the play therapy and those kinds of things I enjoyed, like playing with the children, uh huh.

Riggins: When you graduated from Shaw, I'm sure that was a big celebration and--

Delilah Blanks: It was- It was and I did my student teaching in Rocky Mount, one of the high schools there.

Riggins: In social studies or in English--

Delilah Blanks: English and social studies, uh huh.

Riggins: What happened after that? Did you--

Delilah Blanks: After that I got my first job in- in Wake County, a small town called Zebulon, at Shepard High School.

Riggins: You were staying out in the Wake County area and teaching in a high school and--

Delilah Blanks: Yes, teaching social studies.

Riggins: What drew you to higher education? How did you end up coming to UNCW?

Delilah Blanks: Two things: Uh.. The pay scale and uh.. I had ambition to move up in life so I went back to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and did a master's-- Well, I had-- Uh.. I left the public education, went back in social work in Bladen County. Then I went with the state of North Carolina for a while and uh..--

Riggins: You went into social work for--

Delilah Blanks: Went into social work because I saw some of the social conditions in the school system that in my opinion uh.. uhm.. were not being addressed and I thought the- the- uh.. as a professional social worker I could be influential in helping to address some of those conditions.

Riggins: Did you get a master's in social work?

Delilah Blanks: I got a master's in social work at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Riggins: After you finished that it sounds like you went back home to--

Delilah Blanks: After doing that then I worked with the uh.. State Department of Human Services in Raleigh for two years uh.. for a while there and after that I went back.

Riggins: Found your way back to Bladen County and--

Delilah Blanks: Back to Bladen County and to the university, and got my first job teaching introduction to social work here at the university part time.

Riggins: You were also working in Bladen County--

Delilah Blanks: At that time I was working in Bladen County and teaching one course here at the university.

Riggins: How did they find you for that? Was there a need for a social work professor and--

Delilah Blanks: During that time, introduction to social work was just one course being offered in the sociology curriculum, and they were looking for someone to teach that as a- as a course in that curriculum and I was attracted to that, and I was employed to teach that at night as a night course.

Riggins: That was helpful--

Delilah Blanks: That was helpful, yes.

Riggins: Dr. Polgar told me about James Scalf. Was that the--

Delilah Blanks: John Scalf. Yeah, John Scalf.

Riggins: He was the chair of--

Delilah Blanks: John Scalf was the chair, and I think the department had about uh.. six or seven or eight staff persons.

Riggins: It covered a whole range of social sciences. Right?

Delilah Blanks: Social sciences, sociology, anthropology, criminal justice and two social work courses.

Riggins: Yours and what was the other one? Was--

Delilah Blanks: Social work and social anthropology. I just think social work was the only one.

Riggins: You offered the first social work course at UNCW--

Delilah Blanks: If my memory is correct, I think so. I don't want to-- I want-- I don't want to say incorrectly but I remember that was the one course that I taught on Tuesday and Thursday nights. I would leave my job and come here and teach that at night. I'm not sure if there was a course being offered during the day but I was attracted to that and had some interest in uhm.. expanding that curriculum because during that time the state of North Carolina did not require social workers to have- uh.. uh.. who worked in the social services departments to have a degree in social work. They only had the school at Chapel Hill. So I was interested in establishing undergraduate social work education programs uhm.. in order that we would have more professional people in the social-- Well, it was called welfare departments at that time during the early '70s. -who were professional trained individuals because during that time all one needed was a- a degree in- in- uh.. a higher education degree, a baccalaureate degree.

Riggins: Not necessarily in the fields--

Delilah Blanks: Not even a degree in the behavioral sciences. You just needed a- a college degree so if the local universities offered more courses in social work even if they didn't have a degree in social work at least some more courses in the behavioral sciences.

Riggins: Was this something that you looked in to for a social work program at Chapel Hill? My sister did that program and you don't have to do a thesis for the MSW. At least, she didn't have to. Did you have a specialty in--

Delilah Blanks: At Chapel Hill-- My specialty at Chapel Hill was community organization and social planning. Uh.. I was attracted to community organization and social planning because I ha- saw that as a way to bring about social change uhm.. from the systems level or organizational level, people organizing, uh.. organizing groups and individuals, groups of in- groups and organizations to effect change.

Riggins: Being able to make change--

Delilah Blanks: Right. Right.

Riggins: What do you remember about your students in the early days of your teaching career?

Delilah Blanks: Those were very exciting and challenging days. We were going through integration at the high school as well as the university level. Uh.. I remember being the only Afro American student in a lot of classes and if I remember correctly I was s- about the second minority faculty person here on campus so I had uh.. some difficulty adjusting to the students and vice versa, but once I got to know the students and they got to know me then things began to improve, so it was a growing process and a learning process for all of us including the faculty.

Riggins: How long did you continue in teaching part time, or do you remember when you switched to full time or--

Delilah Blanks: I think--

Riggins: How is it that you started teaching here full time?

Delilah Blanks: I think the part time went on for maybe four years. I'm not ker-- I'm not sure. I think from '72 to '76. About four years I think.

Riggins: Dr. Polgar came I think in '76 and so you were here at that time and--

Delilah Blanks: But evidently then I- I- I- uh.. I was- I was full time prior to her so eh.. maybe I d- I started two years prior to her so mine must have been maybe '72 uh.. or '4, uh huh.

Riggins: Pretty soon there was just a need for--

Delilah Blanks: Well, as the curriculum added additional courses, then we recruited additional faculty so Dr. Polgar was the second social work faculty person and then uh.. forget the gentleman's name who was the third person, and students from psychology and uh.. political science uh.. would take courses in social work as elective courses, uh.. begin to minor- as a minor area.

Riggins: Was there someone else teaching social work with you in the early days, not in your class but before Dr. Polgar came? Do you remember--

Delilah Blanks: No. I- I was the only one teaching the courses. We had about six of those.

Riggins: You developed the curriculum as well?

Delilah Blanks: That's correct. That's correct.

Riggins: When you started teaching full time, how did that change? Did you end up moving to Wilmington or--

Delilah Blanks: No, I commuted- I commuted so a 20 m- 20 minute commute so I never moved to Wilmington.

Riggins: That's like Cleta Mosley who works in the library. She continues to commute. She gets in early so there's no traffic. What were some of the things to remember about teaching once you started teaching full time and working on committees, doing all the administrative work that professors have to do?

Delilah Blanks: Well, once I started teachin' full time I didn't have my master's, staying at the university level. Then uh.. the s- even though the s- the master's in social work is uh.. recognized as a terminal degree but uh.. in- in the- at the university level you really are not recognized unless you do have the- uh.. the PhD degree so there's considerable pressure externally as well as my personal desire to- to do the PhD. So I taught and went back, enrolled in the doctoral program at Chapel Hill, so uh.. I asked for a one year leave of absence. I enrolled in the-- As I said, I enrolled in the doctor-- I- I applied and was accepted in the doctoral program at Chapel Hill so at that time--

Riggins: In social work?

Delilah Blanks: Well, they don't have the doctoral in s- didn't have the doctoral in social work at that time so I enrolled in the School of Public Health in health education so my doc degree is in health education- I mean public health and health education.

Riggins: A one year leave, but I'm sure it took longer than that 'cause you had to--

Delilah Blanks: Well, it took a long time because I was part time and still teaching so I would drive up to Chapel Hill two days a week and on Saturdays.

Riggins: That must have been quite a commute--

Delilah Blanks: It took five years to do that.

Riggins: That's quite a commute and at the time you also had a family--

Delilah Blanks: Had a family, had a husband and two children, two teenage children, so it took a lot of determination and a lot of commitment and a lot of dedi- dedication to do that.

Riggins: To work in that--

Delilah Blanks: And to do that and to do the research of every-- it was a life goal that I had and something I wanted to do and there was pressure to- to do that if I was- if I were to remain at the university, uh huh.

Riggins: From what I gather talking to other faculty members, it was right around that early to mid '70s that really PhD--

Delilah Blanks: You have to have the PhD, even though you could argue that the- a master's is all I need but uh.. there's pressure to return and if you want to stay on, you want to get recognized, if you want to move up you got to have the PhD and uh..--

Riggins: How did you like the program, the--

Delilah Blanks: Oh, I enjoyed the program- I enjoyed the program, a lot of support, rented a apartment in Carrboro, couldn't afford Chapel Hill, uhm.. a very good roommate. She was doin' a program in nursing. She had a master's in nursing. She and I were in the same program so we supported each other, spent a lot of time in the lab, 2 o'clock in the morning.

Riggins: What was your area of study in public health? Was it--

Delilah Blanks: Health education.

Riggins: Health education?

Delilah Blanks: Uh huh, health education.

Riggins: The labs-- Did it involve--

Delilah Blanks: Uh.. They stat, statistics, uh huh. Uh.. I was stat, uh huh.

Riggins: You said that you completed that in '82 or that's when you graduated?

Delilah Blanks: '82, uh huh, uh.. '82.

Riggins: Another big celebration?

Delilah Blanks: Big celebration.

Riggins: Now you're Dr. Blanks and--

Delilah Blanks: I'm Dr. Blanks and wrote a lot of notes to myself. I kept uh.. mental notes that went back to read after completion.

Riggins: How did you keep busy? I know you kept busy here at the university but what were the things that occupied you? You taught a full load I'm sure--

Delilah Blanks: Here at the university uh.. because of my rural background I volunteered to recruit students from the rural counties and from the minority communities because of their deprivation and uh.. uhm.. realizing the importance of education in- if they are ever going to move up in life. So I spent time goin' out, talking to high schools and encouraging- our catchment area of the five counties immediately surrounding New Hanover, encouraging those students to apply to UNC Wilmington and encouraging the university to reach out to minority students and increase the minority enrollment here on campus.

Riggins: Was that work with Ralph Parker at the time?

Delilah Blanks: Working with Ralph Parker. The administration was very amenable to that and this established the minority- Office of Minority Affairs and through that office headed by Ralph Parker students were able to receive support services, assistance with tutorial services, purchasing books or Ralph would address whatever problems were brought to him.

Riggins: How did that work--

Delilah Blanks: It worked very well.

Riggins: What interest did you find among the rural students? Had some of them not considered UNCW or--

Delilah Blanks: Well, what h- what was happening-- We have the minority institutions, Shaw University, St. Au- St. Augustine, the predominantly black universities that are- compete- federal, state, Winston Salem, A&T, E- Elizabeth City, that are also competing for those students. So uh.. we have the alumni of their parents and they sort of want those students to go there while I'm out recruiting them to come to UNC Wilmington. It's predominantly uh.. a non-minority university uhm.. so--

Riggins: However, this university had the advantage of being closer--

Delilah Blanks: Well, the advantage is that it's closer, they can commute, uhm.. but they feel less comfortable here uh.. at the campus. If you-- For an example, if you would go over to the cafeteria they would sit- just sort of isolate themselves or separate themselves uh.. uhm..--

Riggins: You encountered some success going out there--

Delilah Blanks: Some success--

Riggins: --with your program.

Delilah Blanks: --but a lot of the students didn't feel comfortable on campus. They would come one year and they would drop out or transfer. In fact, if we would recruit a hundred we would only retain half of those. The percentage would not go up. We called it minority hemorrhaging. If you bring in a hundred you lose- we'd- we'd lose as many as we'd recruit so the percentages wouldn't go. We had a percentage we want or let's say we'd set a goal of 5%. We couldn't get above the 5% so we had a- a program. We would try to find out why they were leaving us and address those problems. Uhm.. And I'm not sure how successful we are today as far as the percentage because again we are competing with other universities and students for whatever reason feel more comfortable where- where a higher percentage of minorities have a presence but I think the administration is serious about trying to recruit and retain minority students and faculty.

Riggins: What kind of feedback did you get from the administration when you were involved with it? Were they--

Delilah Blanks: It was positive- It was positive.

Riggins: They wanted to know why--

Delilah Blanks: And uh.. we'd have s- uh.. minority activities, annual events, Martin Luther King Celebration Days and uh.. had a gospel choir I think and uh.. special affairs. I'm not sure. I haven't kept up with it but uh.. I was very much involved in that and we'd have mentor programs. We'd assign students. I would bring them into my office and we'd talk uhm..--

Riggins: What was the enrollment of minority students in social work? Were they well represented in social work?

Delilah Blanks: They were attracted to social work because of the disproportionality among the recipients of social welfare services uhm.. at least in the minds of the public but if you look at social welfare rolls uh.. uhm.. it's- it's not as wide a spread as you might think. Uh.. It's just that minorities pla- uh.. tend to be more visible in the welfare offices uh.. but I encourage minorities to consider social work as a profession because uh.. minorities uh.. are dependent upon services provided through the social services offices as a way of life to help them address some of their basic needs, food, shelter, clothing, those kinds of things.

Riggins: It's true. There's an important role in managing policy for the services.

Delilah Blanks: Uh huh, and as far- and also addressing social welfare policy to help formulate that. Now I've been very busy and trying to help- help with that since retirement, very much in that at the policy level.

Riggins: I want to discuss that--

Delilah Blanks: Not only the delivery of services but the formulation of policy. That's where the action is.

Riggins: That's where the action is. What do you remember about the development of a social work program? Folks were trying to get it--

Delilah Blanks: Well, once we got the uh.. courses and developed the curriculum, then we started looking at the granting of the degree because the students would graduate from UNC Wil- Wilmington with a degree in sociology with a concentration in social work so we looked at it at the serial review and a couple of the professors came in and say, "Look. Uh.. Our students need a degree in social work that they can present to future employers." So we were uhm.. granted permission to award the degree in social work. Then after having done that, then we started to look at- started looking at uh.. accreditation, that we need an accredited program, uh.. and that was our next goal, to have an accredited program.

Riggins: There was a BSW--

Delilah Blanks: That's right. We would award the BSW and after that I said, "Well, after that we need to get our students into the master's level program through East Carolina University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, to ask them to come in and do an af ca- off campus program." So we've been successful in getting the BSW program here and uh.. -

Riggins: --is on the way. I'm not sure when it's going--

Delilah Blanks: And hopefully-- I noticed we had- the s- campus has moved toward the doctoral program in some areas and we are growing and one day we're going to have the doctoral program in social work. There's a need in the human service area. We are a growing area, you know, Carolina.

Riggins: Is there a need for PhD's in social work--

Delilah Blanks: Well, not-- Uhm.. Uh.. Chapel Hill has the East Carolina-- Let me make sure and I don't think they are doing the doctoral but looking at the changing society in which we are- we are living and we are in the service area and some of the problems that society- our society are- are coping with there's a dire need for uh.. professional people. Look at- Look at mental health, the reform and all of this. So I would say there's a dire need for--

Riggins: Professional--

Delilah Blanks: --highly trained professional people.

Riggins: Administrators and--

Delilah Blanks: Administrators, policy people, uh.. research people, uh.. teachers, and when you look at those needs then I would say yes uh..--

Riggins: Maybe a PhD--

Delilah Blanks: When you separate those out--

Riggins: --program in social work--

Delilah Blanks: --uhm.. there is a need, looking at human ba-- Look at- Look at the whole drug ____________ to us with the- uh.. the drug culture.

Riggins: The addictions and--

Delilah Blanks: Yeah, so uh.. we need all the help we can get in trying to understand that and treat that, prevent that.

Riggins: What courses did you like teaching the best and--

Delilah Blanks: Introduction is good because you get a little bit of all of it. Then I liked the policy one. Of course, I liked crisis intervention. I liked it all I suppose but- uhm.. but the introduction, the students get an overview.

Riggins: What do you hear from some of the alumni?

Delilah Blanks: Oh, I love to meet them. I see them all over and I enjoy hearing from them, where they are making an impact in the various agencies they are working in from the council of government to some of the social service agencies uh.. for various--

Riggins: You've heard from some of the BSW students?

Delilah Blanks: Yes, I have.

Riggins: Have some of them gone on from MSW?

Delilah Blanks: Some have gone on to graduate school. Some are in various ser- human service agencies so I'm proud to have been part of their- their development.

Riggins: --come up to you and say--

Delilah Blanks: Yeah. They say "I remember when" and "How are you doing?" Uhm..--

Riggins: Let's talk also about the changes at the university at the time. Before the interview we were chatting and you said you remember since you're from the region when it was just Wilmington College and it was a little place with maybe a few hundred students at its very beginning and you saw it explode and grow throughout the '70s and '80s and--

Delilah Blanks: When I started in the '70s I remember the sign 'Leaving Wilmington' and uh..--

Riggins: In order to come here--

Delilah Blanks: To get here, you're leaving Wilmi- lea- leaving the city.

Riggins: Or the city limits--

Delilah Blanks: And leaving the city limits, uh.. Wilmington College, and uh.. it was the big time when we got the main university. It makes us look more-- Well, university is just a better sounding name than college uh.. so then we started setting numerical- numbers that we want to reach so uhm.. then we started attracting- then going to get into the international-- We wanted an international approach so we started doing an international curriculum. Some of our students would go out during the summer and we would recruit students and faculty to come to this campus and we did the international curriculum. Uhm.. The university started growing. The general assembler gave us a little more money to grow with- with which to grow at least. We started attracting faculty, a more diverse faculty, a younger faculty, uh.., like I said, a more diverse faculty, uh.. a more I will term it international faculty that were willing to come to the area with a less cultural shock because they would find other people like themselves that would come to the area and willing to locate here. Some of the industry like General Electric, Corning, and the larger industries would attract people to work and uh.. even in the hospital, the doctors, the medical field, were able to attract people who would come and make permanent this area. So the area itself has grown as far as professional people coming and willing to locate and stay and because of that the whole region has changed.

Riggins: And become more urban--

Delilah Blanks: It has become a little more urbanized and I don't know the words but it's just different, meeting all kinds of people, and you can listen to their language pattern and dialects and whatever and start to say, "Well, you're not from here. Where are you from?" And I find myself now saying, "Well, I know you were here. I know you're one of the region, I know you're not of the region, from the dentists to the surgeons to-- So now we don't have to-- Once upon a time we had to go to Chapel Hill for different uh.. diagnoses and uh.. medical procedures so now the doctors are here at this regional hospital that we have and if you look at the doctors out there now they are from all over. Look at the faculty here. They are from all over. So the region within the last 20 years has changed and the university has changed with it.

Riggins: It has changed--

Delilah Blanks: And por-- The airport has changed uh.. to some degree but the growth is almost frightening there because we have to plan that growth because of the sensitivity of the environment so uhm.. we're in- we're at a critical stage and I think the university has to step up and play a role in that growth.

Riggins: A leadership role--

Delilah Blanks: A leadership role because of the-- And when I say the sensitivity of the environment because of where we are located in North Carolina here on the eastern shores by the ocean and the land area uh.. in which we- exactly where we are located here.

Riggins: --for the population.

Delilah Blanks: You have the developers who want us to grow very fast. We have the old timers who are very conservative who don't want to grow very fast and- and you have a competing force here. You have the retirees who are s- electing to come into Brunswick and New Hanover. Uh.. It's another group of individuals who are moving in. Then you have the career people who are choosing to come in.

Riggins: And the families--

Delilah Blanks: Uh.. And families in- in the beach area. So you have a mix and it's exciting.

Riggins: Did you get involved in any cross-disciplinary work while you were here? It sounds like you've had an interest in healthcare--

Delilah Blanks: Well, the cross-discipline, uh.. the geriatrics-- We were looking-- Uh.. We were working with uh.. uh.. psychology and uh.. uh.. uhm..-- Oh uhm..--

Riggins: I was wanting to know her name. Eleanor Coban?[ph?] Did you work with her?

Delilah Blanks: What was her name? There was a lady in psychology and- uh.. or sociology in geriatrics. Of course, with the aging population we were looking at uh.. working with especially the sociologists and there was one person in psychology, putting something together to address the needs of the--

Riggins: Gerontology.

Delilah Blanks: Uh.. Gerontology, the aging population, the needs of that group especially in the health area.

Riggins: You worked on some courses--

Delilah Blanks: Uh huh. Uh huh.

Riggins: --and also in the nursing school. Did you say--

Delilah Blanks: The school of-- Oh, uh.. yes. You're right. The School of Nursing because uh.. the high cost of treating and maintaining the elderly, looking at uh.. uh.. a continuum, the high cost of keeping the elderly- uh.. moving the elderly into the n- long term care facilities, a need to keep them in their homes as long as we can because of the cost factor and the personal satisfaction of staying in your home versus going into a nursing home let's say uhm.. and the desire of some of the elderly to stay in the workforce as long as they would like to. Probably some of the young would like to come in but probably not the workforce can accommodate the needs of both. The young need to come in. The elderly might need to move out to free up the- the jobs but they need to. How can we do- maybe accommodating their need to not leave the workforce prematurely or early but the need to- to bring the young into the workforce uhm.. at the same time with your volunteers, uh.. and however you might do that.

Riggins: In the social work curriculum, were there some clinical experiences? I don't know if 'clinical' is the word but where you had people going out for internships that you--

Delilah Blanks: Well, I spent the last-- I- I-- Uh.. I did the directing of the program and developing what we called the practicum. The students will do two of those but they actually go out into the agency and d- do what we called the apply part of the curriculum. They go out into various human service agencies and will actually uhm.. spend so many hours- uh.. semester hours in that agency in the applied sense. That's called the internship, uh huh.

Riggins: What was your involvement with that? You--

Delilah Blanks: I supervised. I developed those and I supervised those, uh huh.

Riggins: You supervised--

Delilah Blanks: Primarily, they were done in New Hanover County but some of them were in the students' hometowns in other counties like Pender, Brunswick, probably one or so in new he- uh.. Columbus. Uh.. If they had completed the curriculum except that, then we will allow them to maybe do an internship in their hometown to--

Riggins: How did that work? Did you have to coordinate with-- Was there a supervisor--

Delilah Blanks: We would have to coordinate it. If we had a master's level person in that agency who would be willing to supervise them in that setting, then we would arrange that, a contractural arrangement.

Riggins: A master's in social work or it could be a master's--

Delilah Blanks: Desirable and so we'd need a master's level person to help us with that, uh huh.

Riggins: What was their feedback?

Delilah Blanks: And that was another reason that we would want people to have master's because we'd at least want someone to supervise them that had a higher degree than the one they are seeking because a teaching- it's a teaching process, a supervising teaching process at the same time. Yeah.

Riggins: What were the students' experiences like? Did they--

Delilah Blanks: Most of them would have a good experience if- depending on the expectations of the agency. We didn't want them to make another worker out of the student. You know, this is a learning process. It's a work, learning process, not come in and be a file clerk--

Riggins: Or answer phones--

Delilah Blanks: --or answer the phone. This is not a receptionist. This is not a full time worker. This is a student learning who's come to apply certain- a knowledge basis when learning [ph?] into a practical setting and you are a supervisor, teacher with this individual and that's sort of hard to get across to some of these agencies hard pressed for manpower, eh.. you know.

Riggins: You'd have to work with them on that and be an advocate for the students and--

Delilah Blanks: And we wanted to make sure that the quality of learning in that setting is comparable to one that's in this setting over here. I mean that's kind of hard to do at times.

Riggins: Who do you remember being influential or memorable from your times-- I suppose you were here when Dr. Leutze came on board. You would have been here--

Delilah Blanks: I was here with Dr. Leutze. It was his second year. He was in about his second year when I left, uh huh.

Riggins: He was still new but--

Delilah Blanks: He was new and it was sort of a transitional period for the university. He was a different-- He had a different style than Dr. Wagoner so it was a transition for the university and some of us on our way out. It was a different building going on and there was right much transitioning going on from the building to the faculty.

Riggins: Things changed.

Delilah Blanks: There was change, yes.

Riggins: Pretty quick--

Delilah Blanks: Rapid change- Rapid change.

Riggins: How well did you get to know Dr. Wagoner?

Delilah Blanks: I knew Dr. Wagoner very well. Yeah, I knew him very well, uh huh.

Riggins: You had conversations--

Delilah Blanks: Good conversation with him.

Riggins: He was interested in social work curriculum and things--

Delilah Blanks: He was very supportive of the behavioral science s- uh.. programs, yeah, uh huh.

Riggins: Basic studies-- How much of an impact did that have on social work? Do you remember if the students were able to take some social work courses for basic studies and did that come about? It--

Delilah Blanks: I think we were ordered-- I think, and I might stand to be corrected on this-- I think-- I better not an-- Uh.. I-- I'm not sure whether we were able to-- I know sociology was. I'm not sure whether or not they could substitute the social work intro for basic studies or not. If that had been so, then-- Well, that's how you get kids attracted to a certain area. For example, if they take eh.. base- I mean end up during their uh.. s- freshman and sophomore year-- Let's say they take intro to social work and they might take another social work course and they might decide they want to major in social work. It seemed like to me that was a discussion and whether or not intro could be counted as one of their basic courses versus sociology, it could be substituted, and uh.. the sociologists didn't want it to be. Uh.. The social work people tried to defend it as it ought to be--

Riggins: Was that discussion--

Delilah Blanks: --and-- Yeah, and I believe-- I believe it didn't get there- get to be that same like--

Riggins: There was a discussion--

Delilah Blanks: But it was--

Riggins: How many non-majors did you teach? Did you come across a good number of students who were just taking a course and didn't know what they wanted to study so--

Delilah Blanks: And students are not sure. You know, a lot of college students are not sure. They just-- You know, uh.. they are along- they're a good way along before they really decide what they want to do and I find students are interested in people. They just have a curiosity about people and a good way to satisfy that is a course about people. Social work is about people.

Riggins: It's all about people and working with people and--

Delilah Blanks: And they would take the course, uh.. they'd look at the intro, uh.. what is this about, what does it purport to teach about, uhm.. read a little bit about it, and it has an attraction to them, and if they take that then they might take another course and then they might take it as a minor area. The psychologist doesn't say, "Well, what am I-- If I'm not going to-- If I'm not-- If I'm only going to get a BA in psychology, what am I going to do with it? I have to go on and get the ma-- I can take a BA in social work and do much more. It has a great- a greater utility. It's much more marketable than a BA in psychology." So the--

Riggins: It sounds like that's--

Delilah Blanks: That's right. So the psychology student might end up getting a- a BSW with a minor in psychology uh.. and my thing to the student: You show me an unemployed social work major. I don't know one. I said, "Uh.. You- You give me a social work major and I'll help that person find employment because we're looking for them."

Riggins: We need them.

Delilah Blanks: We need them.

Riggins: That I'm sure would speak to a certain type of student--

Delilah Blanks: But a-- But a- a person with a- uh.. uh.. a major in psychology what are you going to do with except go get a master's? And to be a professional psychologist you really need your PhD.

Riggins: I'm sure there were some quibbles with psychology--

Delilah Blanks: Well, anyone's going to defend his profession but my thing is if you will go in social work you're not going to make a lot of money but you'll- it's- it's a highly s- satisfying area when you can go out there, help a- help a person cope with a problem, solve a problem, and maintain a satisfying life. It's very stressful. It's-- It burns out but if this is what you'd like to do then social work is a good field to go in.

Riggins: It sounds like you developed an interest in working especially with older people and--

Delilah Blanks: Uh.. With older people, with uh.. adolescents. You know, you major in an area that you want to go. If you want to go into the policy area and the administration area-- It depends on, you know, where you want to be. There's various areas of specialization.

Riggins: It's a flexible field I feel like.

Delilah Blanks: Even the law profession-- Uh.. It gives you a good background uh.. if you want to go there with it.

Riggins: I'm sure the number of students in social work grew throughout your time--

Delilah Blanks: But right now if you look at the fields that are wide open, it continues to be the social work field and the education field. This country needs good social workers because they have a lot of eh.. human problems that need to be addressed and the education field. Of course, we also need mathematicians. We need them all right now. We just need people to be- uh.. to be-- Eh.. It's a highly competitive society we're living in.

Riggins: We need to be good and professional. Let's talk about what you've been doing in the many years since then and if it's okay we may go on to another tape to catch--

Delilah Blanks: Okay. Fine. Okay.

Riggins: I guess probably it went by pretty quickly, your time here at the university. I don't know if it seemed so at the time but you were here for about 20 years it seems like and--

Delilah Blanks: Well, it went by. Uh.. The program grew. The faculty grew. Each within the department-- We had sociology, anthropology, criminal justice and social work. Social work got to be a very-- You know, we were- got to be a completive part within the department. One time it was just a concentration. We became a de- a- a- uhm.. a viable piece of the department. Other- Other parts of the department I call them wanted to sp- split off like but anyway we've got a new building and we've got students and we began to get recognition and- and uh.. that meant a lot within the department so--

Riggins: Around 1992 or thereabouts, you found it was time to try something new or retire. How did you--

Delilah Blanks: Well, by that time I decided I had been teaching, I was going on toward 30 years. There was other things I wanted to do with my life. There was other conditions especially in my community and county that I wanted to address. I really- I really had a passion when uh.. looking at certain inequalities in the field of government and public education and this kind of thing. So I worked with my county and uh.. in the area of government and got involved with uh.. a lawsuit that was filed by my civic organization in Bladen County, look at how commissioners were elected in that county and other counties that came under the Civil Rights Act and uh..--

Riggins: --district?

Delilah Blanks: Bladen, Columbus and several other counties, their few minorities were being elected to boards of county commissioners and boards of education. So I got involved with uh.. uhm.. uhm.. some lawyers with- uhm.. some civil rights lawyers and decided to try to change the electoral systems in those counties so we could be elected in larger numbers in the state of North Carolina.

Riggins: In the voting districts--

Delilah Blanks: That's right.

Riggins: Okay. I--

Delilah Blanks: That's right.

Riggins: It was a statewide issue or was it--

Delilah Blanks: Well, yes, it was statewide and uh.. uh.. we started to use some of the provisions in the Voting Rights Act to change that- to change that and that was how I got-- Well, we filed the lawsuit for my county and ended up that three federal judges in the District of Columbia changed in- the voting system in Bladen County and uh.. that's when I became a commissioner in Bladen County and--

Riggins: So you're--

Delilah Blanks: In '88 so I stayed on here for four years and decided I would go ahead and retire from this and work--

Riggins: You were a Bladen County Commissioner while you were here--

Delilah Blanks: For four years I stayed on, uh huh, uh huh.

Riggins: The lawsuit-- You guys won it--

Delilah Blanks: Yes, we won- we won.

Riggins: --and then you got elected on as a county commissioner in '88. Have you been a county commissioner since then?

Delilah Blanks: Eh.. I have been and still is- still am, uh huh.

Riggins: You still are.

Delilah Blanks: And there I went to the national level, uh huh.

Riggins: The county commissioners from across the nation or--

Delilah Blanks: Uh huh. I'm on the national board, one of the four board members from North Carolina, the board of directors for the national group.

Riggins: Have you been a president or--

Delilah Blanks: No, I haven't- I haven't been a national officer but I serve on the national board, uh huh, so we formulate policy for the national board.

Riggins: Being a county commissioner all these years, I'm sure you've gotten to know your whole county very well and I was surprised to learn that part of Reigelwood is Bladen County. Is all--

Delilah Blanks: Part of Reigelwood-- __________was Bladen County, yeah.

Riggins: Part of Reigelwood is--

Delilah Blanks: Columbus and Bladen County, uh huh.

Riggins: Bladen County experienced some changes, not as rapid as--

Delilah Blanks: Not as rapidly as I like. Eh.. In fact, we are regressing in some areas as far as minority employment in government and looking at the school system as far as administrators and- and uh.. progress. The-- Uh.. I like the statement "The past is not dead." In fact, the past hasn't even passed as far as attitudes and employment practices and- and uh.. equal opportunities. Uh.. Racial attitudes have changed as far as some services. Uh.. I worked hard in social services to change the delivery systems, trying to change the way poor people are respected when they come in for services and uh.. their rights are- are recognized and accorded them.

Riggins: You've been very active in--

Delilah Blanks: Uh huh. In- In fact, whether that's trying to get-- For an example-- I'll give you a good example. Uhm.. Let's take applying for electrical services, just some- something that simple. If you go in and want electrical power, you buy a new home or a mobile home and you want electrical services, they don't have to collect your $150 and keep it for a whole year and make- make a profit off of it. All you need is a letter of credit of someone who's on their system is to sign for you. They don't tell them that. Why? Which is better to carry in? A letter of credit that I signed for you or carry in your $50 and let them keep it for a year?

Riggins: That's true. The exploiting is just terrible.

Delilah Blanks: So I said, "Look. I don't want another person to come in this eh.. office and you not tell them there are options. It's not fair to them." Because the illiteracy rate is so high in this county, illiteracy rate.

Riggins: Bladen County is still considered a rural and under-served county--

Delilah Blanks: Very rural, very under-served. I had to say it--[ph?] So-- Yeah.

Riggins: Healthcare--

Delilah Blanks: Uh huh. They were compared to another county.

Riggins: It's interesting because it borders--

Delilah Blanks: And the- the children's test scores are still so very low and those kinds of things. So I decided I'd stop teaching and get out there and be an advocate and start to bring about some change in our own county and try to encourage parents to involve themselves in the school system to help those children to improve themselves and the school system and go on and try to get out of poverty because poverty is learned. It's more than being without dollars. It's-- Uh.. It's socialized. You got to break through that, you know.

Riggins: The sense of despair and--

Delilah Blanks: Uh huh, uh huh.

Riggins: It's very hard to--

Delilah Blanks: There's a way out but you've got to- you've got to work through that way and like I did, you know.

Riggins: It's a fight and some people don't have ammunition maybe to fight so-- I think we have covered most everything that we needed to cover but I thank you very much for--

Delilah Blanks: Well, I hope I've been helpful. I don't know if I painted a good picture but I'm involved in a lot of things, in economic development. I'm on economic- economic-- L-- I'm on economic development board. I'm in-- I'm concerned with environmental issues, the hog houses, uh.. the landfills. I'm on that so--

(crew talk; tape change)

Riggins: Hi. This is Adina Riggins again, introducing Dr. Delilah Blanks for the second tape in our Oral History interview. Today is still June 28, 2006. We're at UNCW. Dr. Blanks graciously has come out to join me to talk about her time at the university, as well as her time applying everything that she's taught about social policy welfare and social welfare policy while she's working out in the field. So we were talking about how since 1988 you've been involved in policy, really, as a County Commissioner, right, serving on the board of the County Commissioners.

Delilah Blanks: Right.

Riggins: What have been some of the projects that you've been most proud of while you've served?

Delilah Blanks: Uh.. Since I've been a County Commissioner uhm.. there are three projects that I feel very good about and continue to work with. And that is my attempt to get more minority individuals, especially Afro Americans, elected to policy-making boards and more especially county- Boards of County Commissioners and Boards of Education throughout North Carolina in the health area. So going back to the elected boards, in North Carolina, my last count, we have over 100 minority county commissioners now and we have an organization of black elected officials of county commissioners. I served as president of that group for two years about six years ago. And that's a very, very uhm.. active organization at this time. In fact, we are giving scholarships to students uh.. who will go to college and major in political science. Another area is the environment and uhm.. in North Carolina, I'm concerned about the siting of landfills in North Carolina. Right now, if you will look at what's happening, there are five large landfills that have been uhm.. sited in North Carolina that's looking at taking uh.. garbage from out of state. And uhm.. Those landfills are being primarily sited in minority communities sort of been a pattern. So we are asking the state to take a look at that. And one of the reasons that out of state developers are coming into North Carolina, North Carolina laws are- are less stringent than other states and the statutories on the garbage. Uhm.. So that's another area I've been involved in and--

Riggins: Wow. That sounds difficult. I mean how do you advocate for the community? What's the progress of this? Is it looking like it's--

Delilah Blanks: Well citizens groups are organizing and uhm.. we're working with various individuals who- environmental groups and uhm.. legal groups, lawyers and paralegals who uh.. take an interest in it, protect the environment and the air quality of North Carolina.

Riggins: Is Hugo Neu--?

Delilah Blanks: Hugo Neu is one and there's another one up toward Virginia and uh..-- It's not that we are against landfills. It's just that North Carolina needs to stop and take a deep breath and protect its beauty and its land and its air and its water.

Riggins: Right, right.

Delilah Blanks: It has to be disposed of, but we're just saying, "Look, we need to stop and think more- more deeply, more carefully in a planned way uh.. what's going on here." Another's in the area of healthcare, with our aging population, uhm.. how we treat the elderly. Uhm.. It's much less costly to keep the elderly in their homes as long as we can. It's more satisfying to the family and it's less costly to society to do a more comprehensively in-home care approach than looking at long-term institutionalization, long-term care. But operators of the long-term care facilities are very powerful, the lobbying group and uh.. it's hard to fight-- Not "fight." I don't like the term; in an adversarial way, but looking at the cost and personal satisfaction. I think North Carolina can do a better job at providing in-home care to the elderly.

Riggins: In-home care, right.

Delilah Blanks: Mm-hmm, and localized facilities that can be used by them, senior centers. So I'm- I'm speaker pro tem of the Senior Tar Heel Legislature Group. That's uh.. an advocacy group for the elderly in North Carolina. We were established by the General Assembly uh.. to do that.

Riggins: So North Carolina can do better--

Delilah Blanks: I would think so. I think we have the capacity and the resources. And I hope we have the will to do so. There's a need for it.

Riggins: How about services at the county level? In your county, have they--?

Delilah Blanks: Well, services at the county level, the revenue in the poor counties like Bladen. For example, the whole issue of Medicaid. That's one of the healthcare programs. Uh.. It is a shared cost program between the federal, state and local government. At the present time, North Carolina is the only state in the nation that asks the counties to participate in the cost. And in Bladen County, $0.21 out of every $1.00 goes to Medicaid and other counties, Robeson, Columbus and other counties. So when that much money comes out of a dollar for Medicaid--

Riggins: Does that come from property taxes?

Delilah Blanks: Property taxes is the primary sources. It is the primary source of that money, which means there's very little money left for other needs - education, law enforcement and that kind of thing.

Riggins: Right. Interesting.

Delilah Blanks: So it's more imperative that the state take over that program.

Riggins: I can see where you're coming from.

Delilah Blanks: Mm-hmm.

Riggins: The macro level of policy and I'm sure that's what you worked on with your students too is understanding the background.

Delilah Blanks: Mm-hmm.

Riggins: Not just how to do your job.

Delilah Blanks: And we're so dependent on property taxes, which is getting obsolete and we are a service-oriented society. We need to change the whole tax structure system in North Carolina. And the governor with the- uhm.. the forums, the issues, for- uhm.. emerging issues forum, he's recommending that we take a look at that, how we- our whole tax system is obsolete in North Carolina. So I'm trying to engage in those kinds of things. It's very- it's very challenging but uh.. it's exciting.

Riggins: You've been on the Board of County Commissioners for going on 18 years.

Delilah Blanks: Eighteen years. Eighteen years.

Riggins: How often is reelection?

Delilah Blanks: Every four years. So I'm trying to make 20 out of it and then I'll give it up.

Riggins: You'll give it up.

Delilah Blanks: Give it up.

Riggins: It seems why go on 20? You had 20 years at UNCW and then--

Delilah Blanks: Well 20, that's the major number for me - 20/20.

Riggins: Right. Right. Also you're--

Delilah Blanks: Then I'll stop and write about it and then give someone else a chance, you know - new ideas, new energies.

Riggins: What about in education have you involved with? Certainly with the boards, the school boards you've been involved with.

Delilah Blanks: Well, with the school board, at this point, I'm looking at-- We have formulated a committee with the suspension rate, in-school and out of school suspension, the whole discipline policy in the county. Uh.. There's a disproportionate number of African American males being suspended. And when those kids are suspended, they get behind in their curriculum. They're very- being disruptive and sent home or wherever, then they come back and they're not able to pass their end of grade test. Then they become a dropout statistic, which is unfortunate. The dropout rate continues to be high and it's related to their being disruptive in the classroom, being suspended and getting behind and we gotta do something about the dropout rate.

Riggins: (Inaudible)

Delilah Blanks: And you know as well as I do; if you don't have a high school diploma--

Riggins: It's the first great step.

Delilah Blanks: That is life-taking.

Riggins: It's critical these days.

Delilah Blanks: It's very critical.

Riggins: It may have been different--

Delilah Blanks: Very critical.

Riggins: --50 years ago or 100 years ago.

Delilah Blanks: None of them did need an associate degree. Right now, we're looking at needing a college degree and they don't even have a high school diploma? It's totally unacceptable.

Riggins: Life is going to be tough for those people.

Delilah Blanks: Totally unacceptable.

Riggins: The jobs available are not--

Delilah Blanks: They will end up being another liability on society. Then it's passed on from one generation to another.

Riggins: Education is the key. There certainly is a lot that needs to be done.

Delilah Blanks: Yeah.

Riggins: So you're hoping to make it 20 years on the board. I'm sure you'll get it. What are your thoughts for afterwards? You'll continue doing some writing--?

Delilah Blanks: Hopefully encouraging others to take the torch and move on with it like the Olympics. Life goes on. You move in out, you move out, move in/move out and life goes on.

Riggins: Then you'll be probably still involved though.

Delilah Blanks: Hopefully. Hopefully.

Riggins: You may be doing some teaching or some--

Delilah Blanks: I would hope so.

Riggins: Any other thoughts? I wanted to ask you too; do you recommend that I talk to-- Anyone else you can think of that I should talk to? You mentioned Ralph Parker.

Delilah Blanks: I mentioned Ralph and that's because Ralph was at UNC Wilmington ___________. He's a highly respected black male in the region. He's in Southport, which is Brunswick County and I think was very instrumental in helping us to formulate policy as far as recruiting and retaining minority students and, to some degree, some faculty, let's say. And it's crucial that the university continues to- to recruit and keep or retain minority faculty, students, staff, administrators and by the way, I keep up with what's going on. We have an excellent ____________. I admire her a lot. I keep up with-- There's been a lot going on with athletics, but you know, I keep up with that. But the university is the heartbeat of the region to me. I have such faith in education. Some of the students, because of the cost, the commuters who come in from the other counties, they would not be able to go to some of the other universities. So uhm.. I think you serve a crucial need for higher education in the region.

Riggins: You need to be available for the region. I think it--

Delilah Blanks: I'm proud of that. I'm proud to have been a part of that. I promote that and it- right now, I continue to lobby the legislature to keep funding the funding needs of the university.

Riggins: Thank you.

Delilah Blanks: Because this region is behind-- Talk about one North Carolina, two North Carolinas, Southeast and North Carolina continues to lag behind the other North Carolina and one way they can help us is to help this campus.

Riggins: But do you find--

Delilah Blanks: And this campus can help this region.

Riggins: --Talking to students and their families in Bladen County that there may be interest in UNCW?

Delilah Blanks: Yes, we have- we have Bladen Community College and they do their first two years there. Then they can transfer. So half of their uh.. academic matriculation is done in Bladen Community and when they come to UNC Wilmington, they only have two years left. And that's a- that's a good savings to them.

Riggins: That's great.

Delilah Blanks: And- and their education is second to- I mean is competitive to any other university when they come- when they come here whereas if they went out of the region, it's gonna be much more costly.

Riggins: Sure.

Delilah Blanks: They can commute and it's good driving because it's four lane all the way in.

Riggins: ___________.

Delilah Blanks: Mm-hmm.

Riggins: That's take them--

Delilah Blanks: Yes.

Riggins: That takes them straight through Elizabethtown.

Delilah Blanks: Yeah, it does.

Riggins: Is that the biggest city?

Delilah Blanks: Elizabethtown is the largest city in the- in the uh.. county seat.

Riggins: In the county seat.

Delilah Blanks: Mm-hmm. And we need teachers so badly. We really need-- We are- we have- we have a shortage of teachers because we're not able to pay the teacher's supplement. But if we can train our--

Riggins: Is that from property taxes again?

Delilah Blanks: That's from property taxes. We can't get the supplement. We can't get the sign on bonus. So we are saying if we can train our local students to teach maybe we can keep them on rather than recruiting from the outside.

Riggins: Maybe they'll want to come back or stay.

Delilah Blanks: Maybe they will stay and invest in the community.

Riggins: How has that been working?

Delilah Blanks: Well, they still follow the money. Follow the money.

Riggins: That is an uphill battle.

Delilah Blanks: If you can go outside and make another $10,000, you're gonna follow the additional $10,000.

Riggins: That's what makes a huge difference.

Delilah Blanks: It really does. It really does.

Riggins: But attracting economic development to your own region is--

Delilah Blanks: Mm-hmm.

Riggins: --Is nice. It's tough, but it has to be done.

Delilah Blanks: Mm-hmm.

Riggins: This is a little bit off topic too, but what about the Mental Health Reform? You mentioned that. How is that developing?

Delilah Blanks: The Mental Health Reform is just- it's going to be costly until someone can figure out what to do about it. We have deinstitutionalized these individuals the- has privatized some of the providers and the cost sharing has shifted.

Riggins: To a local level?

Delilah Blanks: To- to the locals and it hasn't been figured out who's responsible for what. These people are out there, unmanaged, untreated, unsupervised. They're ending up in the emergency rooms and on the street and uhm.. the Sheriff Department is having to get involved and- and uhm..--

Riggins: You thought this was supposed to be reform.

Delilah Blanks: It's supposed to have been reform, but it's regression and I'm hoping that the state will take some of that surplus, those surplus dollars and get it back into what is called true reform. When you reform something, I thought it was made better. But right now, it has been uhm..- there's regression that has taken place at a time there's increase need, but less resources to address those needs.

Riggins: There's need for children and adults--

Delilah Blanks: Mm-hmm.

Riggins: --Elderly. So that's another healthcare issue that--

Delilah Blanks: Real healthcare.

Riggins: --You're facing.

Delilah Blanks: Mm-hmm.

Riggins: Thank you. What's on your agenda for the rest of the day ahead?

Delilah Blanks: Well, making calls to the General Assembly, to see what the conferees are doing, see how close we are with the state budget, see what we got out of that. Uhm.. That--

Riggins: What you got meaning in terms of county funds?

Delilah Blanks: Well the counties are looking for some Medicaid relief and right now, the Senate didn't get- they're not in their budget. The large capital project's in the Senate budget around the House budget as the Medicaid and some other things. The ___________ on the landfill's in the Senate budget. It's not in the House budget. So those are the- the issues that are trying to be resolved by the conferees. So--

Riggins: I know the County Commissioner is also, you all oversee the public library issues.

Delilah Blanks: Yes, but that is- that's a low priority (laughs). That's being quietly talked about.

Riggins: That's been quiet, right. I know that it hasn't always been in Bladen County.

Delilah Blanks: No, not always. That was- that was an issue at one point.

Riggins: Yeah, there's been issues with books and things like that.

Delilah Blanks: Mm-hmm.

Riggins: I was living in ______________ for a while and reading the papers there. There's a lot going on in a rural community.

Delilah Blanks: (Laughs) Yes.

Riggins: You don't always think about it, but there is. But there's good people everywhere to help.

Delilah Blanks: Ironically, __________ there's one book in our library, school library talking about going to the moon. That's just how out-dated books are. They need to be--

Riggins: In one of your school libraries?

Delilah Blanks: Mm-hmm.

Riggins: Oh, yes. That sounds familiar.

Delilah Blanks: Well, they were making a pitch for additional monies, though. But how out-dated our collections are.

Riggins: Right. We'll go to the moon. Okay.

Delilah Blanks: Mm-hmm, one day we'll go there.

Riggins: That happened before a lot of the kids' parents were born.

Delilah Blanks: Mm-hmm.

Riggins: Well, good luck with your work and the policy and the bills. Any closing thoughts? You kind of said--

Delilah Blanks: Well, it's been a pleasure talking with you and uhm.. one of the proud things; I was uhm.. recognized, there's an award granted in my name, The Delilah B. Blank Social Work Education Award. I think that's still being given out.

Riggins: Yes, it is.

Delilah Blanks: And uh.. that was mighty nice of my colleagues to make that tribute to me.

Riggins: That's awarded to an undergraduate.

Delilah Blanks: Uh.. I think it's still being done. So that was a surprise. That was one of the things that made me feel good, as if I had made some contribution to the university.

Riggins: Right. We thank you for your time here.

Delilah Blanks: Well, thanks for inviting me.

Riggins: My pleasure.

Delilah Blanks: I look forward to seeing how it came out.

Riggins: Yes. We'll be sending you the tapes.

Delilah Blanks: Thank you.

Riggins: Thanks.

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