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Interview with Karen Moorefield, December 5, 2006 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

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Interview with Karen Moorefield, December 5, 2006
December 5, 2006
Karen Moorefield is the Executive Director of Wilmington's Family and Neighborhood Institute, a nonprofit, academically-focused afterschool program aimed at at-risk children. In this interview, she discusses the genesis and goals of the Institute, its impact on the participants, the need for innovative ways of educating children and adolescents, and the specific issues involved with operating the Institute.
Phys. Desc:

Interviewee: Moorefield, Karen Interviewer: Jones, Carroll Date of Interview: 12/5/2006 Series: SENC Volunteers Length 58 minutes

Jones: Today is December 5th, 2006. I'm Carroll Jones with Jennifer Dail for the Randall Library Oral History Project. Today we're pleased to have as our guest interview Karen Moorefield, Executive Director of Family and Neighborhood Institute focusing on at-risk children. Good afternoon, Karen. Thank you for sharing your time with us.

Karen Moorefield: Thank you very much for inviting me.

Jones: Karen, will you tell us how you came to Wilmington, how you became involved with this program?

Karen Moorefield: My husband and I relocated his business to Wilmington in 1994 and I started looking for work and I worked, you know, part-time jobs because at that time I was working for him really until he got his business up and running. I was his unpaid employee. So I worked for him and then I found a job actually here at UNCW in the purchasing department. That was about two years before this offer became available and I jumped on it because I knew it was something that really was of interest to me at this point in my life. This was something I wanted to do.

Jones: Now you're talking about the Institute?

Karen Moorefield: I am. I'm talking about non-profit work. I have always been a volunteer ever since I was a small child and my parents would take my brother and sister and myself, on Christmas we'd have our family Christmas in the morning and then in the afternoon we'd go to the homeless shelter and we would make lunch and we'd celebrate Christmas with them. So my parents have always really encouraged this type--

Jones: To give back.

Karen Moorefield: Yeah, to give back this (inaudible)

Jones: Mmm-hmm, we've done the same thing. So you say this became available. I think a lot of people might disagree with you, but do you want to explain what you mean by that? Now you mentioned to me when we spoke over the phone at one time, a lady named Mary Mosley.

Karen Moorefield: Right.

Jones: How does she fit into this, or was she there? How did this whole program get started and what was the aim?

Karen Moorefield: Mary is actually the founder of the program. She started it in 1993 originally. She retired and made back to her childhood neighborhood and it was fraught with crime and drugs and prostitution. She decided that single-handedly she was going to help clean up the neighborhood. So with a couple of participants, of people who lived in the neighborhood, she went to the city council and requested a building what was in this community to be rented to them for a neighborhood organization. The building had been seized in a Weed and Seed program by the city. So there had been drugs there and that had been seized by the city, so she went with the other individuals and then went to the city and asked to rent that building, and out of that came the Bottom Empowerment Neighborhood Association.

Jones: The which now?

Karen Moorefield: The Bottom.

Jones: The Bottom?

Karen Moorefield: Uh-huh. It's in the bottom neighborhood here in Wilmington, and they opened the doors, I guess, 1993 and at that time they had community programs. They had, you know, elderly exercises, they had computer classes and sewing classes and GED classes for high school dropouts. It was really a community center. What she realized over time was that the greatest need lie in the youth and their academic failings and their inability to keep up with their peers. So it evolved or kind of morphed in 2002, 2003, somewhere in that timeframe, into the Family and Neighborhood Institute and it became really academically driven for children from the neighborhood or in inner-city schools.

Jones: I was going to ask you, were these children particularly from that neighborhood?

Karen Moorefield: Some of them are from that neighborhood but we really get them from all over. They're all inner-city schools. I mean, the children are all in city--

Jones: How do we get there?

Karen Moorefield: Well we have vans that we pick them up at their schools. Sometimes parents will bring them and pick them up but we pretty much transport the kids from the schools to the center and then home afterwards. So (inaudible)

Jones: Okay. This was ______________ about 2002, this ___________?

Karen Moorefield: About 2002, mmm-hmm.

Jones: And how was this funded then?

Karen Moorefield: Hit or miss. I mean, the Wilmington Women's Club helped. PPD, private funders. I think there was a governor's crime commission grant maybe around that time. I mean so there were some private funders that really helped but at that time that was only Ms. Mosley and she was the only member, only person there, operating it. So there were no other teachers.

Jones: So what age children did she have?

Karen Moorefield: She had ages 5th grade. I think she had, like, 15 fifth-grade students and every day after school these 15 fifth-grade students would be dropped off by the bus and she would take them home in a van that she managed to get her church to give to her. It kind of went along that way for about ten years. No, I'm sorry, not that way. It went on that way for about three years and then they called, well they didn't call me. I knew one of the board members and he said, "Look," he said, "you know, we need someone who really can come in and formalize this program and, you know, bring something to it that it's missing and so they hired me in January of 2005.

Jones: Tell me something. Does this group have representative? That's an area where the overwhelming number of kids of minority, they're Black, right?

Karen Moorefield: Yes. I mean, we have two Hispanic students and the rest are African-American.

Jones: My question is heading this way. Do you find that there is a lack of mentors in that community for children?

Karen Moorefield: There's a lack of everything in that community for children. It is pretty sad. I mean, not only is there a lack, there's a lack of consistency in the families. There's a lack of community support for the families. I mean, you know, it's mentors. There's a lack of play space for the children. There's not a lot of place the inner-city kids have to go play that's safe. I mean, there really is, and these are not the children whose parents take them, you know, whose parents are soccer moms.

Jones: Well I understand that, but I'm trying to really reach a point and that is to get you from where you sit to tell us why you see the fact is. We all know there's a lack of mentoring. We know that the kids come from families who are predominately mothers only.

Karen Moorefield: Right.

Jones: And in some cases they're non-existent a good part of the time so that with that kind of very fragile fabric, these kids probably are hungry for others. Do you have people come in? I guess that's where I'm going. Do you have people come in to kind of act as mentors or people who have accomplished things, kids from that neighborhood or a neighborhood similar who can come back and talk to them?

Karen Moorefield: Sure. We--

Jones: So that they don't have the attitude, "All is lost."

Karen Moorefield: Right. That is the first one. We actually operate with about four basic premises, the first one being consistency. These are children that have zero consistency in their life. So they know every day, Monday-Thursday, they're going to come there, they're going to get a snack, they're going to do homework for 45 minutes and they're going to get additional tutoring for the other 45 minutes.

Jones: That's wonderful.

Karen Moorefield: Except on Fridays they're going to get Fun Friday, and on Fun Friday they will do things like make kites, decorate Christmas ornaments. You know, some type of art project. They may do a drama, they may have drama. Maybe, we have gotten, people have donated music lessons, you know, and instruments to us. So it's been very comprehensive, you know, in terms of what these children have experienced. So the first one is consistency. The second one is success stories, and the success stories we have are, first of all, all of our teachers with the exception of one are African-American. All are certified by the state of North Carolina as teachers. So all are teaching to the needs of that environment, not a class and what would normally work across, you know, a standard school day but what the needs of this at-risk population are. So we have positive influences in their life every day. They see these people every day. They walk in. They're hugging us when they walk in because--

Jones: The familiarity.

Karen Moorefield: The familiarity. They're proudly showing us their school papers when they make a good grade. They're coming in our office and crying, sadly when something happens at home and they don't have anybody to turn to or know how to deal with it. I mean, all of this, but they're finding that this is a safe place for them. And so we have peer mentors, which are high school students which are young enough to be mentors to them but old enough to be able to tutor them one-on-one for problems that they may have and so in addition to the North Carolina certified teachers. So we have, you know, a lot of different levels. Additionally we encourage and we really try very hard to create a positive peer environment for these kids because when they leave our building, they 9 times out of 10 are not going to a positive peer environment. That would be the streets. They're going to play on the streets for the evening and whatever that may bring.

Jones: That was going to be one of my questions. When they leave you afterwards and after Friday, what happens? They're on their own?

Karen Moorefield: They are, but what we're trying to do and what we have been quite successful at is because we have so many different schools that are participating in this program--

Jones: How are they selected, Karen?

Karen Moorefield: It is a first-come, first-served basis and it's selected by the schools.

Jones: The schools are the ones--

Karen Moorefield: -- the school counselors send them to. It's the problems of the children. All our children are on free reduced lunches and they all have academic and social problems.

Jones: And these are 5th graders?

Karen Moorefield: Well we've expanded now since I've been here. That was in the beginning we had 5th graders. Now we've got 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 8th. So I've expanded the program considerably.

Jones: I thought it was interesting when you said 5th because in my mind I assumed and I've seen firsthand in recent months that 5th grade is kind of a make or break time.

Karen Moorefield: It's one of the gateways.

Jones: And as is 3rd grade now for testing.

Karen Moorefield: And 8th. That's the three gateways.

Jones: And so it would make sense but at 5th, unfortunately children are not children long enough anymore.

Karen Moorefield: Hmm-mmm.

Jones: And so that choice is a little fascinating and I'm sure you're capturing some of them.

Karen Moorefield: We have found that if we can bring some of our students, 3rd, 4th, and 5th, for three years then we've got them. When they go into the 8th grade they have been with some peers for three years, positive peers that are--

Jones: Middle school.

Karen Moorefield: -- all working hard, you know, to make good grades and so when they go into that 8th grade, I mean, when they go into middle school, which is a very difficult transition--

Jones: Jennifer is an honor student in the school of education studying middle school education and I'm telling her--

Karen Moorefield: Yeah, there's nothing, and so we really want to help them make them into that transition into middle school because any negative behavior really comes to fruition in the middle school grades that you start to see signs of really float to the surface in the middle school grades.

Jones: Now I interrupted you. You started to talk about some of your success stories.

Karen Moorefield: Well we had one young man this summer that worked with us during our summer program -- which incidentally runs from 8:30-3:30, it is a day-long program -- that was a student of ours for, I guess, 5th and 8th grades. He was there for these two grades and he will tell you right off the bat, I mean, now he's a junior in high school, he's a football player, he's a B student--

Jones: That's good.

Karen Moorefield: -- and his future looks very bright and he is one of the first ones to tell you that, you know, I don't know what I would've done. I mean, and he, to this day, you know, he calls us whenever, you know. He's now moved to another school district so he can no longer participate with us but to this day he calls us once a month and checks in and says this is what I'm doing, you know. This is what's going on. How is everything going here? We have two students, they're in the Isaac Bear early college school.

Jones: Is that right? Good.

Karen Moorefield: Students that were bad students. You know, 3rd, 4th, and 5th grader, now in Isaac Bear.

Jones: Do they come back and talk to the other kids?

Karen Moorefield: Oh sure.

Jones: That's terrific.

Karen Moorefield: Yeah, so I mean, it's, these are some of our success stories.

Jones: That's wonderful.

Karen Moorefield: And then the real astounding successes are end-of-year grades. This past year our language arts end-of-year grade, passing was a 91.4% success rate.

Jones: Amazing.

Karen Moorefield: 91.4%. In the county of New Hanover, for this population--

Jones: I saw that.

Karen Moorefield: 49%.

Jones: I saw that. Oh gosh. I saw that.

Karen Moorefield: I mean, but we also use a very different technique and this is the 4th premise that we operate under and that is how we teach. We use active learning experiential academics. Some people call it active learning. But we literally will have something that our children can relate to and I'll give you an example of that. If I'm sitting there holding a basketball, every child in that room knows I'm holding a basketball. If I refer to it as "Basketball noun" and I let it drop and I said, "Bounce verb," not only do those children understand what a noun and a verb is but they understand the relationship, and one of the things that we have discovered about our at-risk population is that when you can teach them the relationship, then you can teach them the critical thinking skills necessary to encase knowledge, you know. So what we're really trying to do is not just teach them knowledge but teach them how to think critically and create these synapses that go from point A to point B to point C all the way down the line so they can figure something out themselves without having to have pure knowledge in order to get an answer correct. Another example was, like, I taught geometry to 5th graders last year. It was fabulous. I had the best time.

Jones: That's pretty early isn't it?

Karen Moorefield: Well they start learning geometry in the 5th grade. Pre-algebra in the 5th grade. So, you know, it's the way it is, you know. There's no, anyway, but when I try to explain to them what polygons, quadrilaterals, so forth and so on, I just got a glazed look from them. But the minute I put up on the board, I said, "Okay polygons would be the grandmother in the family. That's your grandma. Everybody's got a grandma. That's your polygon. And underneath Grandma comes your Uncle Joe, and he's a quadrilateral. Underneath Grandma is aunt Sue, and she's a triangle." And then I said, "underneath," and, you know, I went with hexagon, you know, so forth and gave some more, "And then underneath Uncle Joe is your cousin, you know, Rick, and he is a square." So now all of a sudden are children are able to see the flow of geometry, of relationships. We this summer had an architectural program where our children literally built paper houses with the American Institute of Architects Wilmington Chapter and we brought them in. Well once they have this house here that they have created, I can say, "Lift up that roof and tell me how many rectangles and how many triangles you have." So they're able to conceptualize how it all goes together and so when they see, when somebody shows a three-dimensional triangle, now this child doesn't just see two sides or one side but they literally are able to grasp the third dimension that may not be, you know, visible on the sheet of paper by doing that kind of thing. So we have found a way that active learning is very, you know, very, very successful with our students. On a personal level, having worked in this environment now for about two years, one of the things that I have noticed is a great deal of our children are ADD or ADHD.

Jones: Unfortunately, I'm finding that is prevalent in, is it undernourishment? Is it the activity?

Karen Moorefield: Well I have a theory.

Jones: Is it the hypertension at home? All right?

Karen Moorefield: I actually have a theory.

Jones: Let's hear that.

Karen Moorefield: I feel like that whereas part of it is possibly chemical and genetic, I do believe that a great part of it is society in that we have created a sound byte society.

Jones: Yes, you're right. I think I know where you're going with this.

Karen Moorefield: Whether it's the computer, whether it's video game, it is a constant sound byte. And we've created, I think, a society of children who have short attention spans based upon the sound byte feedback that surrounds them from the moment they are able to turn on a TV and watch a bright, colorful cartoon flash in front of them to, you know, listening to some rap funk music and--

Jones: All right, let me ask you this. If you talk with school counselors or teachers who don't have the patience to deal with a child--

Karen Moorefield: That's why we get them.

Jones: -- who perhaps is not ADD, who is perhaps normal or should be in most ways but the parents take, and they're acting out, so they do behavior that is perhaps not acceptable at times, and they're looking for attention.

Karen Moorefield: Right.

Jones: So the counselors, because sometimes the parents don't know any better or don't care, they always say, "This child needs to be on Ritalin or something."

Karen Moorefield: Oh, absolutely.

Jones: And that cures the counselor's problem. That lowers the problems in the classroom and the parents don't know what's going on so, "Okay, we'll accept it."

Karen Moorefield: And it's a frustration level I have where that--

Jones: But your other __________, I've never heard that one. That's an interesting theory.

Karen Moorefield: And it's simply a theory. You know, one that I hope one day to be in graduate school and explore.

Jones: Well it goes along with constantly being entertained instead of using your __________.

Karen Moorefield: Right. Even reading, you know. I mean, you know, we've come to where reading is by books now. I mean, we're listening to a book read to us in a car when we're driving down the street. Not that that isn't, you know, sufficient or good or anything like that, but only to the degree that it doesn't take the place of your actual ability to read and comprehend for yourself. It's really prevalent, in my mind, when I ask a child to read directions and explain it to me, and I find that our children cannot follow directions. Not not follow directions per se, but they can't comprehend what they're reading. You know, one of the greatest, I remember giving the kid a tip last year. I said, "Look," I said, "Everything is relational." I said, "Everything is a relationship." I said, "And if you go into whatever you're doing realizing that something else is involved in that picture other than what you're seeing, you'll be able to figure it out." So, you know, we teach in relationships. We teach, you know, the relationships of subject and verbs, of, you know, polygons to, you know, so forth. That kind of thing.

Jones: Do you have any interaction with the parents of these children?

Karen Moorefield: Yes.

Jones: And what is that?

Karen Moorefield: We have a mandatory parent program.

Jones: Oh you do?

Karen Moorefield: Yes, but that's the only way our kids are allowed to participate because so much of what happens to the children is because the parents don't participate in their lives, for whatever reason.

Jones: How does this come across? What happens?

Karen Moorefield: Well we know, sadly but true, that a great proportion of our students are there because we take care of after-school care that normally a mother would have to take care of, where they'd have to pay somebody to do it or the child would be a latch-key kid at home. So we help them get their homework done, give them a snack, you know. So we--

Jones: What follows when they do go home? Does the parent--

Karen Moorefield: We don't release them off the van unless an adult is there to receive the child.

Jones: But I'm talking about the atmosphere within the home. Have you any idea? I mean, they're going from an almost idyllic back to--

Karen Moorefield: Only what the child tells us. And again, we emphasize to them, when they do talk to us, it's about relationships. It's not an either/or. In everybody's life there is the good and there is the not so good, and where you may find the good here or at your grandmother's house or at church, there are going to be moments you're going to find things that are not so good.

Jones: Do you have children?

Karen Moorefield: None. Never had any children.

Jones: It must make you absolutely churn when you see these certain mamas of today who are acquiescing to the wishes of their little 3-year-olds.

Karen Moorefield: I am infuriated.

Jones: I can't blame you.

Karen Moorefield: You know, I am infuriated, and I can't say anything. It's not my business to say anything.

Jones: And we shun the child from all harm and evil and bad words, etc.

Karen Moorefield: As if that protecting that child, and that's the thing that makes this child unable to deal with reality. And they do it out of love. They shield their child out of love, and that's what is said is that, you know, I don't want my, you know, it's so funny because I was thinking the other day, I had someone talking, "Well I want my daughter," you know, they were talking, so I said, "Well why do you give her? She's 12. Why does she have a cell phone?" "Well I want to be able to get up with her at all times," you know. And I'm like, "She just can't put a dime in her loafers like we did and go to the nearest, you know, pay phone or something like that and get up with you?" "No, we don't have pay phones because everybody's got a cell phone." So, I mean, you know, when I was a kid we weren't all walking around with cell phones. I mean, it's a different world. Now kids are not playing outside until it's dark and someone's mother calls them home. They're not running down the street. They're running to the local drug-dealing house, you know, when--

Jones: Hanging out at the mall.

Karen Moorefield: Hanging out at the mall and, I mean, and I'm not saying oh, it's time to go back to a better time. It's just time to reevaluate whether the good times that we have now are sufficient.

Jones: Well I think we have here almost complete separation of child-raising, and you see it everywhere. It's not just here, and that parents who, the mothers especially, who they call them the soccer moms but there are so many names for them, they want to be the kid's best friend and then the unfortunate children that you're dealing with, their mother's not even a best friend, much less a mother.

Karen Moorefield: Right. You know--

Jones: So these kids come together in school and it can't help but when peer pressure is such a tremendous part of the life of a young person--

Karen Moorefield: Right.

Jones: -- to notice this. So you, from what you're saying, almost feeling a void and others like you, in a child's life as someone to go to, a mother figure, a mentor, a best friend.

Karen Moorefield: Mmm-hmm. And I can't tell you the number of times I've gone home and cried.

Jones: Oh I don't know how you do it.

Karen Moorefield: I mean, this is such--

Jones: I'm a mom.

Karen Moorefield: -- an emotionally exhausting--

Jones: The kids who work up here can tell I'm a mom, I'm a real mom, and babies, birds, dogs, children of all ages, they just--

Karen Moorefield: I had a homeless child--

Jones: Oh God.

Karen Moorefield: -- come to me one time. I mean, my program last year a homeless child and--

Jones: On their own, you mean? Homeless or--

Karen Moorefield: With a parent, but it was several kids and a parent and they were homeless and they were living in a shelter, and it was obvious this little child didn't even have a pick to do his hair, you know, and it was just sad, sad, sad. So we did everything we could to, you know, help him. We got his quarterly grades, his nine-week grades and we saw that he had an F in science. Now science is not a subject we normally address. We stick with the math and the language arts because we believe those are the two fundamental courses--

Jones: They are.

Karen Moorefield: -- necessary for a child to succeed. But I couldn't help but wonder why in the world would this child get an F in science, you know, because he had gone from Ds and Fs to now this homeless child was up to As and Bs but this persistent F in science. So I asked him, I said, you know, I'm just making up a name, you know, "Kevin, why in the world are you getting an F in science?" "Because I haven't done my science project." Well what the teacher didn't take time to realize was that this child didn't have the money to buy the materials for a science project.

Jones: He lived in a shelter, yeah.

Karen Moorefield: Because he lived in a shelter. He didn't have the $5.00 or $10.00 or, for some of the kids who have soccer moms, $150, you know, projects. He didn't have the money. And I tell you, I sat in my office and I said, "Well," I said, "I'll go pick you up at school tomorrow. We'll get permission from your mom today and we'll go buy stuff and we'll come work on your project," because it was due the next day and he hadn't done the critical path different, you know, marks that say okay, we're this far on our project and this far. And I went into my office and I sat down and cried, and I sat down and cried for that child. I mean, it just weighs heavy on me that a child gets-- and that but a teacher, no less, was not aware of this child being-- or didn't consider it or had so much on her plate. You know, I'm never going to say that somebody is an incompetent, but in all times I would think that you're really focused into special needs kids, especially those that are like--

Jones: Well I do know, but I'm not sure what age child you're speaking of, but I do know that--

Karen Moorefield: Fifth grader.

Jones: -- the principals in the schools will tell his or her teachers do not get involved emotionally with a child or on a personal level because they come and they go and we're here to do the best we can--

Karen Moorefield: Right.

Jones: -- within these walls. The second reason, I had a principal tell me this. It can tear a young teacher apart.

Karen Moorefield: Yes.

Jones: And these young people who come out of school and are teaching for the first couple of years, you know, they want to set the world on fire and they're there from 7:00 in the morning until 5:00, sometimes 6:00 at night. They're exhausted.

Karen Moorefield: Right.

Jones: And that's before correcting paper or doing work plans for the next day.

Karen Moorefield: Sure.

Jones: And so it's hard, it's hard, it's hard, and I think some of them will admit it's very, very hard.

Karen Moorefield: Sure, but see that is--

Jones: But there should be, like you,--

Karen Moorefield: A bridge--

Jones: There should be--

Karen Moorefield: -- in between us and them.

Jones: -- another place like you where they can give a name over and say look, this is a child in need.

Karen Moorefield: Well, and not only that, every one of our children that come to us in the school year, once we're all registered and starting the school year, we send information to the teachers and say we're here to help. I mean, we're the kind of people that you can pass off that responsibility to. Because you could've picked up the phone and called and said, "Brian, is one of your students and he hasn't done his science project." That's all she would've had to do. And we want to say to _______________, we understand, you've got 25 kids that you're trying to take care of. We're trying to take care, you know, and you're one person with maybe an assistant taking care of 25, we're 8 teachers, you know, taking care of 50 students. So it's a big difference when you've got that kind of more one-on-one like we have in our organization. So we always try and make that bridge to school.

Jones: What type of activities besides the Accent on Reading and Math, which is necessary, do you offer? You mentioned early on music and all these different fun activities.

Karen Moorefield: During our summer program, we have a Summer Bridges program, and we have the Summer Bridges program because during the summer juvenile crime spikes and it is our intention to keep these kids off the street so we can keep them out of trouble. There's a lot of kids also with the at-risk population that we cater to there is a 100% loss from the previous school year over the summer. In other words what they did retain at the end of the school year they don't have when they start back to the new year.

Jones: Yeah, a lot of kids are that way.

Karen Moorefield: So we have created a program that is fun but academic. I mentioned, I made reference to our architecture class where the kids literally, where the American of Institute of Architects Wilmington Chapter here in Wilmington brought in local architects. We must have had 50 over the course of the summer, and they came in and we bought the supplies but they arranged a program and they taught the kids math but in the meantime the kids were building clay models. The kids are building paper models where they literally have a cityscape that they've created. They are building collages. It's all hands-on but we're going over the academics associated with it while they're having a good time.

Jones: Is there any other group like yours in Wilmington?

Karen Moorefield: Not that I'm aware of.

Jones: Why haven't we heard more about it?

Karen Moorefield: We're Wilmington's best-kept secret.

Jones: Why?

Karen Moorefield: We are very well-known in the African-American community because we're free. We're 100% free. Our parents pay for nothing and we don't have enough of the right people to be--

Jones: How about your Board of Directors? You got people on there?

Karen Moorefield: We have our Board of Directors but we really need to work towards a new Board of Directors. That is on my list. I'm past the funding where it's pretty secure now. Past the programs that are 100% documented. This is a program that could be replicated statewide. So as we were documenting everything we did so in such a manner that we could literally replicate this program in every city across the country if they wanted to.

Jones: Would this qualify for something like United Way?

Karen Moorefield: Absolutely. What I have found in a lot of situations is that every organization or company has their pet project and we're nobody's pet project. So the funding that we receive is really hard-earned. I mean, I write a lot of government grants. I've received them from the Governor's Crime Commission.

Jones: Yeah, I think you mentioned to me one that you just recently, it's the state grant general fund, the 21st Century Fund.

Karen Moorefield: Well, see, you know, this is a very sad story.

Jones: Oh gosh. Go ahead.

Karen Moorefield: We were partners with two other organizations in that funding and one of the partners, the lead fiscal agent partner, the lead partner, was ineligible to receive the money, or to be a fiscal agent for the money. In other words, they were not eligible to be lead. They were eligible to be a part of but not to lead. So the state has taken that money from all of us.

Jones: Well it's quite a trick to write for grants.

Karen Moorefield: Yes it is. I write a lot of grants. Matter of fact, I finished one up today. I finished one up last week. I spend 50% of my time writing grants and the other 50% of the time trying to formalize everything so that when we ever do get the recognition that we deserve, and we do deserve it,--

Jones: Sounds like it.

Karen Moorefield: You know, we turn kids away. We're filled within the first week of school and now that's bringing in 80 students. We're filled. 80 students within the first week of school.

Jones: Oh I can believe that.

Karen Moorefield: In the summer we have another 50 students and in 24 hours that's filled after we open.

Jones: Surely you've heard of this, the Grandparent Mentor Program.

Karen Moorefield: Mmm-hmm, I have heard of that.

Jones: This has worked fairly well. The only problem is it's not utilized enough. Now a new Board of Education director, Nick Rhodes, [ph?] is very familiar with this and you might just want to talk to him.

Karen Moorefield: Actually Nick Rhodes and Delores are personal friends of mine and my husband's.

Jones: Well they're personal friends of mine too.

Karen Moorefield: Yeah, they know Karen and Michael Moorefield pretty well. We actually had dinner with them right before the election. So yeah, I do, and that is one of the things that I hope to do. That is one of the reasons why they brought me on board. Tell it like it is, is I'm very involved in the community. I've always been involved in politics in Wilmington. I know a lot of people in Wilmington and I'm fairly social. I'm a Rotary Club member.

Jones: Which one?

Karen Moorefield: Wilmington West.

Jones: Okay. Charlotte Hicks?

Karen Moorefield: Yes. I'm there with Charlotte Hicks. They brought me in because of my political and because --

Jones: What's your classification? Volunteer?

Karen Moorefield: No, I'm actually the Executive Director. I get paid when we have the money, I don't when we don't. It's okay, my husband can support me. I mean, you know, I love what I do.

Jones: I think Rotary, my husband's a member of the downtown Rotary, has been for years, and we archived the Herman Blizzard collection so we have the largest Rotary collection of anybody anywhere I think. District 7730, etc. But anyway, I have found that the downtown club, which is the initial one and the large one, they are always looking for programs and they're very good about it. So you need to go talk to them.

Karen Moorefield: We actually will be talking, making the rounds to the Rotary clubs. Miss Mosley has spoken to the downtown Rotary Club at one time and she did not get the funding. But what she did get was several personal checks from the members.

Jones: Well that's all right.

Karen Moorefield: Absolutely, which was probably more than, you know, if she had gotten the funding. I mean, it probably totaled more money than if she had gotten, you know, a small grant. We actually, Mary Gorto [ph?] is--

Jones: I know Mary.

Karen Moorefield: -- a business mentor. I mean, she's a mentor of mine, and she is very--

Jones: Do you go to St. James?

Karen Moorefield: No I don't go to St. James but I used to work in the St. James shelter, that homeless shelter. That was one of my many volunteer things that I did and so I met a lot of people at the St. James. As a matter of fact, St. James is one of FNI's [ph?] collaborative partners. During the summer St. James provides free music lessons, free guitar lessons, and piano lessons. Free exercise, (inaudible)--

Jones: That's where Linda Peris [ph?] got her start, you know, was using some unused space at St. James.

Karen Moorefield: And we do. They support us, St. James, I mean, they give us, 50% of our summer program they provide it in volunteers, in space. They do the art program. I mean, every, you know, I work very closely with Dean and Director Abrams. They are our single-biggest collaborative partnership is St. James.

Jones: Well that's good you've got some people like that.

Karen Moorefield: Very strong. It's a very strong partnership.

Jones: You told me a little while ago about the activities and the grade-testing level and how you interact or don't with parents. What would you say are your biggest obstacles in going forward to where you want to be? And surely you've got a plan. It's not going to all happen at one time so, you know, all those little small steps.

Karen Moorefield: Two things. Space, because if we had better space we could take on more kids.

Jones: Now you're at 11th and Orange?

Karen Moorefield: 11th and Orange, and we accommodate at any given time 80 students. So total for summer and academic year, about 160 kids pass through there. So we're really making an impact on a lot of kids. And the second is funding.

Jones: Is the neighborhood a problem for people to come down and spend some time?

Karen Moorefield: It hasn't been thus far. The neighborhood, for all of its, you know, negative associations, is, you know, they're very respectful of what we do. Miss Mosley or myself can walk out where all the young boys are hanging and, you know, the drug deals are going on. We can walk out and say, "Hey fellas, the kids are coming in. Can you move it down?" and they'll walk down the street.

Jones: So you've got obviously some respect there.

Karen Moorefield: Absolutely. They see what we're trying to do. They know that we're trying to create--

Jones: Now Mary is Black, isn't she?

Karen Moorefield: Mmm-hmm.

Jones: And you're Caucasian?

Karen Moorefield: Right.

Jones: And you're working well together?

Karen Moorefield: Absolutely.

Jones: And the kids see it.

Karen Moorefield: She's fabulous. We are two peas in a pod. We get along, we squabble, we're like mother and daughter.

Jones: My husband said he heard her speak at the rotary at one point.

Karen Moorefield: Yeah. So we definitely, we're very close to each other.

Jones: Well that's interesting. So anyway, where would you like to be going forward? How would you like to be going forward? What, adding any classes? Adding any whatever. You need a space, that's your number one priority.

Karen Moorefield: Right. So when you say move forward, do you want like a two, five, seven, ten-year--

Jones: Whatever you feel is--

Karen Moorefield: The next step?

Jones: Yeah.

Karen Moorefield: Okay, the next step for us is to get secured funding. It is a constant because of the kinds of things that happen. I mean, that was $85,000 for three years. That's a substantial amount of funding to take a hit on.

Jones: Yes it is.

Karen Moorefield: So, you know, up until two, three weeks ago, I was able to start planning on other things whereas now I'm back to the drawing board because, you know, we've got to have funding. So the first thing is for me to find what avenue, what it takes for us to truly get some secured funding. The second thing I want to do is I'd like to be able to have satellite programs throughout the city. I think there are plenty of places we could have programs, and I'm not talking about going into the schools and do it because I think it needs to be someplace--

Jones: You're talking about small community-type things.

Karen Moorefield: Right. You know, we can use a rec center or something like that, you know, to do what we need to do. You know, I mean, it can be done. Logistically it would be difficult but doing what I did logistically is difficult anyway so it's not going to add any, I don't see, any further stress to my situation. And then I would like to have it completely documented so that we could literally train other communities to have a program like this because it is highly successful.

Jones: Would you then go out and try to lure more volunteers like medical people one day a week or two days a week or something like that?

Karen Moorefield: We got a grant a couple years ago from Cape Fear Memorial Foundation. So we're, you know, we're out there lobbying for it. What we really need more than anything is a real good, strong, solid Board. We have a lot, unfortunately, or fortunately, on our Board that were there in the beginning and they're on the Board because they were part of the original crew that started this out and we need to make them honorary Board members and get some more active Board members involved.

Jones: Well there are enough people in this town.

Karen Moorefield: Well you know, I have had a very difficult time doing that. Everybody is on a Board somewhere.

Jones: Well some people are on two and three, you know. There's no--

Karen Moorefield: Exactly. And I understand that being burnout. I mean, my husband, I would love for my husband to be on the Board. I mean, obviously that's not kosher because of his commitment to this. I mean, most of the architectural program that we had this summer, he contributed the supplies, you know. His company. The easiest thing for me to go out is get somebody to go out and help us, literally. Last summer we brought in the arboretum. We had a "Show Me The Money" project. What we did was we took our kids, none of them had ever been to the arboretum.

Jones: I wouldn't doubt it.

Karen Moorefield: We took them to the arboretum and had a tour--

Jones: Can you take them to the Children's Museum now?

Karen Moorefield: We did take them. Someone contributed tickets to the Children's Museum for us this year, so we took them--

Jones: Mevin __________ [ph?] has, well, several people have a bridge going on in there. [ph?]

Karen Moorefield: But we went to the arboretum. We learned about plants and growing and we planted herb seeds and over the course of the summer we had a huge herb garden. After the arboretum stint was over for the next couple weeks we brought in a banker. He taught our children how to manage money, the difference between wants and needs, debits and credits, how to write a check. You know, we set up a corporation on--

Jones: I think they're getting a better education than some of the kids in the regular schools.

Karen Moorefield: Well, I mean, these kids don't have parents that are doing that for them. They don't have parents saying, "Okay, here is your $5 of allowance this week. Twenty percent of it goes to the bank." Do you know what I'm saying? They're not being taught these things. It's not that they don't want to know these things, they're just not being told these things so when they become parents or when they become parents at age 14, you know, they are clueless on how to deal with what life offers them or gives to them. So we're trying to have a character-building, skill-building, and academic-building program so that we are trying to say, okay, we're going to at least expose you to a holistic lifestyle and now at least you know where to come back and look for reference if you need to try and do something.

Jones: How many days a week do you do this?

Karen Moorefield: Five days a week, Monday-Friday. And I spend a lot of evenings and weekends at social events, and events, you know, where I'm out trying to garner interest in board members and that kind of thing so it's a pretty busy job for me.

Jones: I would say so.

Karen Moorefield: Yeah, but I love it.

Jones: Well you sound like it. You're very, very enthusiastic. Obviously you haven't given up.

Karen Moorefield: No.

Jones: All right. So what's the ultimate goal? When will Karen think, "Well, we're on our way." What happens?

Karen Moorefield: Funny you should say that. One of the things that I have come to realize in business is that if I'm ever going to be, one of my biggest problems, excuse me, let me back up for a minute, is the lack of support I feel like we're getting from the African-American community. I feel like--

Jones: That's pretty much the way it is though.

Karen Moorefield: I do, and I can only assume that to some degree that is because nobody takes FNI serious because I'm leading the helm and when they first brought me in there was a big problem in the community with that. Why have you not hired a Black executive director? Why did you get a White executive director?

Jones: Have you talked to Bertha Todd?

Karen Moorefield: Oh yes. And Bertha is one of our contributors.

Jones: She has her finger right on it as to what the problems are.

Karen Moorefield: Oh sure.

Jones: She's very up-front about it.

Karen Moorefield: She certainly is and so are the ones that sit on my Board. You know, I mean, the people that started this, they're like look, we need to do this and if this is what we need to take to do, then this is what we need to do. But in getting back to your question about where now, where do I go now, prior to losing this money I had actually, and I still hope, I'm still going to start to move ahead a little bit more slowly perhaps but still moving ahead on this, is hiring an Assistant Director. We have a teacher who has an accounting degree and a teaching degree, so I'm thinking wonderful individual to kind of walk in my footsteps and the point is at the beginning of the year [ph?] I'm hoping to bring him on board full-time and start to work with him for as long as it needs to, takes so that eventually he can take over the reins and he will be the presence in the community that they need to really get the support from the African-American community and I'll be the presence in the White community that they need and I will eventually go back to school. I want to go back to graduate school and I'm going to work on my theory on the ADD/ADHD sound byte theory.

Jones: Interesting.

Karen Moorefield: I'd like to do some research. I have a perfect opportunity to do it. The things, the preliminary things that I've put into place indicate that I've got something really legitimate here and I'd like to formalize it. That's neither here nor there. I'm going to be here doing this until it gets to the point that that's where I'm going to be and eventually I would like to be an on-site psychologist for the kids. I'd like for them to have a therapist simply because they need one as much as they need the academics. They need, you know, someone that they can, when they have the explosive anger issues, when they, you know, sit and have problems dealing with other kids because they get picked on when they have home problems that they're disassociated and can't learn anything because all they can do is worry about mommy being beaten up or, you know, they need to have another, so this is another dimension that eventually I'd like to see go in happen to it. (inaudible)

Jones: You've got a full plate.

Karen Moorefield: I have a lot of hope.

Jones: That's, I guess, probably the thing that keeps you going.

Karen Moorefield: It is. I mean, you do the kind of thing that I'm doing because you believe in what's good and what's right and what's true.

Jones: Not everybody can do that, Karen. You know that.

Karen Moorefield: Mmm-hmm.

Jones: It takes a special kind of person.

Karen Moorefield: No, I don't know about that.

Jones: I do.

Karen Moorefield: But I believe that, you know, everybody has to be somewhere and this is my somewhere.

Jones: Now what are you planning for this Christmas? I know holidays sometimes can be absolutely horrible as well as joyous.

Karen Moorefield: Right.

Jones: So what are you planning for that?

Karen Moorefield: For the kids? Well we had such a successful time. Last Christmas we had a Christmas party for them. And we, you know, went to the dollar store and bought these little dollar gifts, you know, and wrapped them up all pretty. You know, that kind of thing like that. But what made the biggest impact was that we went and got a helium tank and we blew helium balloons up and we let them go up to the ceiling and then we had all this ribbon hanging down and then hanging on the bottom of the ribbon was tinsel, so it just looked very, it just was beautiful, and the one thing that I think the kids, even more, I mean, they get a candy bar. They'll get snacks, or they'll get that kind of stuff but they don't get--

Jones: They have a memory of that in their minds.

Karen Moorefield: Yes. They don't get this kind--

Jones: Something fanciful.

Karen Moorefield: Fanciful. Something that says this is for you, this was created just for you. You know, this is yours, and I said to them, now mind you, this was 40 kids. I said, when they sat down I said, "Anybody that pulls on those balloons, the party stops." So 40 at-risk kids, not one of them pulled on the balloons, and all they had to do was stand up and pull one down and they could've played with those balloons. Then at the end of the party they all got to take these helium balloons home and their little gift and they had made their own Christmas cupcakes. We made cupcakes and they got to decorate their own cupcakes and they got to decorate a Christmas ornament to take home and, you know, so they had the little bag of goodies, you know, things that they had done for themselves and that, you know, that were given for them, and they were thrilled. And they were thrilled. So we'll do that again this year. They love the fact that, and they are very cognizant of the fact that this was done just for them. I mean, it's amazing, you know, how children are very aware of when one child gets something and one child doesn't, when one child's being handed something simply because the other kid got something first. These children are very, very particular about that.

Jones: Oh I'm sure, peer pressure too is just unbelievable. Is there ever a problem or do you ever sense a problem when these kids go back into their regular schools and they're there with other children, perhaps in their same neighborhood, is there any setting apart? I mean, do they feel more privileged? Do the other kids wonder why they can't do this?

Karen Moorefield: Absolutely. We have, I mean--

Jones: And how does the principal or the teachers or the--

Karen Moorefield: We have, I mean, our students are bringing other students in, and I want to see illegally simply because they are not officially registered, but it is not unusual to have, all of a sudden, look around the room and see a face you've never seen before. "Oh, that's my friend and he wants to start coming here." You know, that is very common. I would say we see that several times a month because these kids are talking up what a wonderful thing's going on here, how they're having a wonderful time, they're feeling good about themselves, the world's revolving around them, you know. The world is revolving around them and they're feeling very special and they're dragging their friends to be a part of it.

Jones: Do you and Mary, do you ever feel like you're saving lives?

Karen Moorefield: No. I'll tell you what we really do feel like. We're fighting a losing battle. That is our prevalent feeling. We never look and say--

Jones: You need to make this heard. You should go to speaking to some groups or have the Star News do a big article.

Karen Moorefield: They actually have.

Jones: They did?

Karen Moorefield: Mmm-hmm. We've had several articles done by The Star News on our behalf. We haven't gotten out there enough for people to really know who we are. We worry more about whether we're going to be able to accommodate the next child that walks in the door. We don't have time to think about whether we're saving these children's futures. We know in a very academic way that we are, or in an intellectual way, but in the real world, on a day-to-day-to-day-to-day, I can see a child come in and know whether he's been beat that day or not that morning before he went to school. I mean, I can see it in his face, or whether some trauma has occurred. I mean, I can see it the minute that child walks in the door. We've had to have lockdown because parents, the father or someone, may come trying to snatch a child, you know. So, I mean, it really is in the trenches. I think that may be one of the reasons why we don't get the kind of notoriety, or the notoriety we get is a negative but we don't get the kind of attention that we should is because we're not everything is happy, this is good, aren't we positive, aren't we building positive relationships, because we're spending a lot of our time really making sure these kids get an opportunity. I mean, most of our energies are making sure that child gets that opportunity. If that child wants, I mean, I don't care if it's time to go home and this child is reading a book and wants to finish reading this book, we will call the parent and one of the adults will take that child home. We'll call the parent and ask for permission. "We're working on this project, they would like to finish it. Do you mind?" Usually the parent says no.

Jones: How different are you from, let's say, the Boys and Girls Clubs who every year have a big fundraising dinner and sometimes a silent auction? My husband and I have attended those several times.

Karen Moorefield: And DREAMS. There's another one of those organizations.

Jones: And DREAMS, Incorporated, Tracy Wilkes' outfit, and even DSS does this with--

Karen Moorefield: The gay domestic violence. Yeah, all of those.

Jones: Right, and the fashion show luncheon is sort of--

Karen Moorefield: Right.

Jones: I've been to every one of them.

Karen Moorefield: Right. Myself included.

Jones: I know people who have run them and are on the Boards and so forth. They're hardworking but they seem to be doing a really good job but they're getting attention.

Karen Moorefield: You know, that is the $64,000 question I've yet to answer. That's the $64,000 question. I believe we really need some more Board members, very active Board members. I have written personal letters to several people asking them to be Board members only to have been told no. "I just don't have the time."

Jones: Well that's possible.

Karen Moorefield: You know, my eyes and ears are always open and every time anybody says, "Can I help?" I'm like, "Are you interested in being a Board member?" That the first thing. When people say, "Can I help," they really, you know, I really need a Board member is what I need. Even though it would be wonderful--

Jones: Well what you need is a Board with members who can agree on something.

Karen Moorefield: Right. Well with an active Board. My Board will agree on anything I want to do but they're not active. So that's what I really need more than anything, an active Board.

Jones: Will you keep in touch with us?

Karen Moorefield: I certainly will. Absolutely.

Jones: You said you brought a DVD.

Karen Moorefield: It's in my car, I'll go get it for you back--

Jones: Well that's fine. That would be good, and I want to thank you for what you're doing.

Karen Moorefield: Thanks.

Jones: Thank you for taking the time to come and visit. It's been very, very interesting.

Karen Moorefield: Thank you.

Jones: And we can't offer you a whole lot except just spread the word.

Karen Moorefield: That's all I ask. That's all I ask.

Jones: And of course this whole interview will be accessible to anybody who wants to take a look at it. It'll have a subcategory but be a part of this special history project we're doing and there will be a transcript so people who are studying this or whatever can come and take a look, listen to you--

Karen Moorefield: Right.

Jones: -- and it's right there.

Karen Moorefield: And it's a phenomenal program.

Jones: Sherman Hayes, our University librarian, is unavailable right now but he is very big on volunteerism and this kind of thing particularly.

Karen Moorefield: Well anybody, any student, all I ask is if you give us ten minutes to stop by and see us in action. I mean, don't make a commitment. Just stop by and watch. Stop by for ten minutes and watch. That's all I ask. If you want to stop by for ten minutes and watch, you'll walk away with everything I just spent an hour telling you.

Jones: I'm sure. I'm sure. Thank you, Karen.

Karen Moorefield: Thank you.

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