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Interview with Amy Taylor, February 25, 2008 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

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Interview with Amy Taylor, February 25, 2008
February 25, 2008
Amy Taylor has been an active volunteer in the Wilmington community since she and her husband, Walker Taylor IV, moved to the area in 1987. Her involvements include Crossroads, the Domestic Violence Shelter, the Battle of the Books for local children, and many others.
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Interviewee: Taylor, Amy Interviewer: Jones, Carroll Date of Interview: 2/25/2008 Series: SENC Volunteers Length 55 minutes

Jones: Today is Thursday, February 25th, 2008. I'm Carroll Jones for the Randall Library Oral History project and we're visiting with Amy Taylor this morning in special collections at Randall Library. Good morning, Amy.

Taylor: Good morning.

Jones: Thanks for coming.

Taylor: Good morning. Glad to be here.

Jones: Okay. We're going to start off by finding out a little bit about you, just you, early years, where you're from, anything like that that kind of brought you from that point to this point, what forms you, who mentored you, if anybody, and so why don't you start by just saying where you're from.

Taylor: Sure. Well, it's a great starting point, of course, for anybody but I love when people ask me to say something about my background. The first thing that always comes to my mind is to share with folks that I am the sixth of eight children and I've realized that, over time, I share that frequently and often at the beginning of when somebody wants to know a little bit about me so in terms of what forms you, I certainly think being the sixth of eight children in a very busy household was a big part of the personality I developed and the traits I developed and such. But I'm an army brat. I grew up sort of around the world the first seven years of my life. Was born in Germany and lived a couple of different places. The last international spot I was in was Thailand and then we moved to McClain, Virginia, where my father was a colonel in the army and chose to go and serve in Vietnam. He, unfortunately, was killed in Vietnam so we, as a family, decided to stay in McClain, where we had his parents and some other family. So, from a sort of move every two years early life, I became a resident of McClain, Virginia, from the age of seven through high school.

Jones: Where'd you go to school?

Taylor: Went to Langley High School, public high school. There were-- my maiden name is Crittenberger. There was a Crittenberger at Langley High School for 16 years straight.

Jones: I'll bet.

Taylor: We kind of knew which teachers to get and which courses to take and such. Wonderful place to grow up.

Jones: Do you remember who the principal was at Langley at that time?

Taylor: Mr. Cabella[ph?]. I sure do. Do you-- from that era..

Jones: My kids went to Fort Hunt.

Taylor: Right, so you know-- yeah, I do remember. I remember him and you know Fairfax County Public Schools?

Jones: Very well.

Taylor: Extraordinary vision. All of us felt like we were well educated in that public school. We were going to go to Catholic school but the Catholic school, which was right in our backyard, didn't have room for all of us when we moved from Thailand so my mom said we're going to be all in one system or the other. So we all went-- they had previously been in Catholic and international schools so we all went to public and every one of us straight through.

Jones: I think that's one of the things you find in that part of the world that year, like, at Fort Hunt, they had the only planetarium. They were the only school that taught Russian, you know, things like that.

Taylor: Yeah. Right.

Jones: And, of course, the clientele, not that they weren't any wonderful kids, but they were bright. They'd had advantages, et cetera.

Taylor: Yes.

Jones: So that, with one son, two sons went to private schools and they begged us to take them out and go back, you know, so we did.

Taylor: Oh, wow.

Jones: Made a few dollars that way.

Taylor: Yeah. You saved a little bit of money that way.

Jones: But, at any rate, so you had a-- where were you born in Germany?

Taylor: I was born in Bad Canstatt, outside of Stuttgart.

Jones: Okay. Down south.

Taylor: And my younger brother was born there as well and it was my parents' second tour in Germany. My oldest brother was born there. My youngest brother born in Thailand so we were born all around the globe which is--

Jones: Don't you think that's helped you?

Taylor: Well, I don't know that...

Jones: But you were young?

Taylor: ...I could pinpoint it because I was so young but I think just growing up in a family of children who were very adaptable and flexible and welcoming.

Jones: Yeah.

Taylor: Very important to my mom because we were always new and she always told us to be friendly to the kids who came in new and didn't know anybody because we had lived that life and so that was a great lesson from my mom.

Jones: And when you were around adults, probably.

Taylor: Oh, yes. Yes. I've always been very comfortable around adults, just given the household I grew up in, being the sixth. Everybody was older and, after my dad died, there still was a sort of a filtering through of his friends and classmates at West Point community, very strong and in that area and so, yeah, I've always been one who's been comfortable around adults as well but try to be-- from my childhood, I think you said, in terms of what forms you, of course, that experience of losing my father and having compassion, I think, for people, understanding loss, but beyond that, growing up in a very vibrant, lively, happy household.

Jones: That's wonderful.

Taylor: With seven brothers and sisters.

Jones: That's wonderful.

Taylor: It was chaos but it was--

Jones: I imagine.

Taylor: Yeah. It was full-time, you know, not much down time but it was wonderful.

Jones: Where was your mother from? Did she have relatives close by? Did you children have relatives?

Taylor: We had cousins nearby. My dad's brother, who was also a West Pointer, lived there. His father, who was a three-star army general as well, was in the D.C. area. My mom did not have family. She, too, was an army brat from a big family and they had spread out throughout the country.

Jones: That does happen.

Taylor: We did have cousins in the area.

Jones: Well, that's good.

Taylor: It was wonderful.

Jones: So go ahead from there.

Taylor: So, from there, I launched off into my college days and I went to Davidson College where I was recruited to play field hockey and that's my absolute love, my favorite sport. We all grew up very active. Every child had the opportunity to participate in all kinds of sports and I need to share with you that, growing up in that area, as you know, my sisters and I had every opportunity and it was a big surprise to me to come south and to find that there were girls who had not had the chance to play and participate in the sports and things that I had had the opportunity to do and I think that formed me as well. I saw everything as an opportunity. I could participate and do just like my brothers did. So I went to Davidson to play field hockey and had four wonderful years there. When I was a sophomore in high school, my mom had a recurrence of cancer that she had fought for seven years and she passed away in 1980 so, at the age of almost 19, I had lost both my parents.

Jones: That's tough.

Taylor: Yeah, it was tough. It was tough but, you know, we had a resiliency that my mom had taught us and everybody, of course, went through their different grief processes but we all landed on our feet and I'm so proud of my siblings for that.

Jones: How old was the oldest one?

Taylor: The oldest one was 26 and the youngest was 13. So that was...

Jones: Did you all take care of one another?

Taylor: We did. My sister-- I had a brother who was at West Point had come home to George Washington and he moved from an apartment in D.C. back to McClain to stay with my youngest brother, who was in the eighth grade, and I had a brother who was a senior in high school. Then my sister, who had been at Princeton, had done two years in Taiwan teaching, and came home and she stayed. And then I finished Davidson and I came home and I stayed so we all kind of tag teamed to get him through his high school career and, you know, you think, gosh, what an effort but it was fun. It was. We live-- it was like a group home with your siblings. We were best of friends and we happened to be brothers and sisters and I was working and my older siblings were working and it was really a magical time for us, a very healing time to all be together.

Jones: I'll bet you're all great parents.

Taylor: Well, my siblings are. I'm not sure I fit in the great parent category. I try hard and do the best I can but they all are extraordinary people and have wonderful children so yes.

Jones: That's wonderful.

Taylor: I think so.

Jones: That's wonderful. So you graduated from Davidson?

Taylor: Graduated from Davidson in '83 with a B.A. in political science and went back home to McClain and did what I love most, which is coaching. I coached the high school field hockey team, which I had played on and my three sisters had played on and got to coach with the woman who coached me and...

Jones: This is at Langley?

Taylor: ...I loved it. This was at Langley. So I went back right after I had finished. And I really didn't know, Carol, what I was interested in doing and one of my best friends growing up had gone out to California to work for the '84 L.A. Olympics. After the field hockey season and I wasn't sure what I was going to do, she said, "Come on out." I said, "Okay." You know, there's something great about being 22 and footloose and I said, "Sure." So I...

Jones: Not afraid of anything.

Taylor: Unafraid and so my brothers put me on the airplane and I flew out to Los Angeles and stayed with my friend and needed a receptionist fill-in at the Olympic committee. I went, got a job, stayed out there for nine months. What a great, wonderful experience, on my own, doing my own thing in California.

Jones: Did you know anybody?

Taylor: No, I knew my one friend, Laura.

Jones: One friend.

Taylor: Mm hm. That's sort of the forming part of that childhood where you just say, I can make new friends. I'm going to meet new people.

Jones: Didn't you find it was easy to assimilate in that milieu out there because so many people are new?

Taylor: That's right.

Jones: To those...

Taylor: With the Olympics as well.

Jones: ...of us who grew up in an old family situation, they didn't like it but it happened and it was better.

Taylor: And, too, that job at the Olympics, everybody came from varied backgrounds to this one project that was just a certain time commitment and so that was nice because nobody really knew each other so you were in working with these people, none of whom had a history of working together. We were all coming together to create something special and it was. It was wonderful. But I missed the east coast, even in that little year that I was out there. I missed the east coast so I came back home and started working for the Smithsonian. I worked in their fellowships and grants program as a program coordinator doing fellowships and grants for pre-docs, post-doctoral folks who wanted to come in and work and use the collections there at the Smithsonian, which was a really interesting job because, as you know, Smithsonian is so varied. You have anything from their tropical research institute to, you know, studying dinosaurs to Dorothy's red slippers. So it...

Jones: That's true.

Taylor: so varied and the people I got to meet were just incredible, very, very interesting and...

Jones: Good, good group.

Taylor: Yes.

Jones: It's a constant changing group.

Taylor: Constant change and I loved working downtown. It was fun to be in Washington as a young person and that was...

Jones: That's the only time...

Taylor: ...a happy time. Well, I think it might be because you don't mind parking the car, riding the subway, doing all that. It was a happy time.

Jones: Everybody is still idealistic.

Taylor: Yes, exactly. And at that time that I was working at Smithsonian, I also continued to coach field hockey because I really loved that and I used to do this crazy thing where I'd get to work at 6:00 in the morning and work 'til 1:30 in the afternoon and run home and coach hockey for three hours and I loved it. I've always loved sports, big part of who I am and what I love. So that was a great time but I had a wonderful beau who lived here in North Carolina, in Wilmington, and, when we decided to get married, I said, well, I'm happy to come to Wilmington and he was very gracious and said, "If you don't like it, we can go back to Washington, D.C." Now, if I had put his feet to the fire, I don't know but I happened to fall in love with Wilmington so we got married in 1987...

Jones: Now how did you meet?

Taylor: I met Walker sort of through his family, actually, his cousin was my classmate at Davidson and his sister was a year ahead of me. I came to the beach one summer, said, I'm going to work at the beach with some girlfriends, you know, this is just going to be a great summer and it was and I just, you know, when you least expect it, kind of a thing, and worked at the beach and met Walker and had a little summer fun and just continued to date over six years. We were juniors in college.

Jones: So you got to know each other?

Taylor: We really got to know each other and I wanted to work and do my thing and be independent and he wanted to do his thing and play professional golf for awhile and, you know, so it really was nice that we gave each other the opportunity to finish schooling, get your first job, learn how to balance a checkbook, you know, learn what makes you tick.

Jones: You two were kind of smart.

Taylor: Well, I don't know if we were smart or just broke and said we got to do our own thing, you know, what it was but...

Jones: Little of both.

Taylor: Little of both. So ended up in marrying in '87 and coming to Wilmington.

Jones: And you've been here ever since?

Taylor: And we've been here ever since.

Jones: And you've been very busy every since, obviously.

Taylor: We have been busy. It's just been a wonderful 20 years for me here, Carol, really, and when I moved to Wilmington, and you know Wilmington in a much deeper way than I do probably but, when I moved here, it was still small town. I-40 had not come through and...

Jones: Oh, gosh, that was the biggie.

Taylor: I remember driving from our neighborhood in Forest Hills out here past the university, out College Road North, and I said to Walker, "We're in the country." That's about where the Wal-Mart and the Sam's and all that is now. It was country. If you went the other way on College, it was two lanes all the way out to Carolina Beach. It was a small town. It had that small town feel to it but you could sense that things were getting ready to change. I mean, what a jewel of a place to live with the beach and the river and the university.

Jones: I don't think the people, for example, your in-laws, I know my in-laws and a lot of a people over in Forest Hills, where my husband grew up, realized what was really happening. After the coastline moved out, that's all they talked about.

Taylor: You're right.

Jones: And, every time we'd come down, we came down in the summer with the kids, there'd be a little more change, a little more change.

Taylor: Yeah, but I think the big change, and maybe through your lenses coming every summer, you really could see it was when I-40 came through.

Jones: That made a huge difference.

Taylor: It made a huge difference because...

Jones: It made a huge difference on the plus side but there were those who bemoaned it, oh, you know?

Taylor: Well, and you're always going to get that with growth and you want to hold onto what's good but you want to grab hold, too, of what can be better. And I think that the community has changed for the better, you know? There's always a balance sheet and there are going to be some minuses but I think the pluses outweigh what's happened here in Wilmington in the 20 years I've been here. It's a very dynamic community. I think what's going on here at the university is exciting, its growth and the addition of the master's programs and the Ph.D. programs and we have such natural beauty here that we get young people who want to be here to surf and enjoy and we get older folks who want to be here to walk on the beach and enjoy it, too. I think it's-- I love that it's got that mix of people, you know? It's not just all young folks who are looking for a certain environment and it's not an old retirement community. It's very vibrant. So it's been a wonderful place to...

Jones: Of course, I think I mentioned to you the statistics show that Wilmington has-- I'm sorry.

Taylor: That's all right.

Jones: The highest concentration of retired mid-level, up-level, upper level Fortune 500 who've retired here. They may not live here around the clock, basically...

Taylor: But have a home here.

Jones: They do. And, of course, that brings in taxes but, at the same time, downtown Wilmington just came out with some new figures that's even more dynamic and which complies why we're doing this project here. It's absolutely amazing and hopefully Wilmington will not fade away nor will they give up their historic balance.

Taylor: Right. That's what you look for is that balance and I think that our city leaders are working hard to keep that and the different kinds of organizations that you can get involved with to sort of preserve our historic nature and make sure that growth is done in the best way.

Jones: What happened when you moved here and you said your husband wanted to play professional golf? Obviously, he is doing something else at this point.

Taylor: Yeah, that's right.

Jones: And you got married, you moved here, you started a new life.

Taylor: Yes, I did, very much. And, really, a big, big change for me, actually. This was, you know, for any newly married person, there's so many changes but to leave my job, where I grew up, all my family, and all my friends and come to a brand new community, that was probably the hardest transition I had.

Jones: I'm sure.

Taylor: Harder than going to college, harder than going out to L.A. It was really a challenge. There's no doubt about it and I missed my family and I missed that support group but, again, that sort of army upbringing of well, this is where we are and let's make the most of it and, of course, being newly married is joyful and happy so there was all that joy in that. And I also had the good fortune to be joining a wonderful family and, as you know, my husband, Walker's family is from Wilmington and they are the loveliest of people.

Jones: They are.

Taylor: So, to join into that, that eased some of that anxiety and heartache that I had missing my family as I did. But, after a few months here, I started working, doing some work for a child psychologist and going into the school systems and observing his clients and just doing a sort of very elementary write-up on what I was observing in the schools. And, as I went around and looked at our schools and I saw some really incredibly talented teachers and I saw some teachers who weren't quite as gifted, I thought, you know, this is something I might like to do. So, while I was doing that job, I decided to go back to school and I came out here to UNCW and got in their education department and, in a year and a half, I had gotten my initial teacher's certification. I had student taught and I was initially certified to teach. While doing that, also, and I, of course, have this part of me that loves to volunteer so I started volunteering while I was also in school and working. I volunteered with a program called Crossroads, which was the brainchild of Jack Dunn and had this wonderful goal of trying to reach out to some of Wilmington's neighborhoods that were underserved and giving them an opportunity for educational enrichment and enhancement. So, on Saturdays, I would go and get a van and pick up kids from these different neighborhoods and we would trek over to a facility and do schoolwork and we would take them places and take them to a ballet. Some of the children lived in Wilmington, they were eight or nine years old, Carol. They had never been to the beach.

Jones: Never been to the beach?

Taylor: Never been to the beach. Took that beat up van, loaded them up, went down to Wrightsville Beach. So we did a lot of neat things with those kids. After I finished getting my teacher's certification, I got hired full-time with Crossroads, it was called Crossroads, got hired full-time with Crossroads and I also, at that time, was pregnant with our first child, which was, you know, just a joyful, happy time for us and wonderful. He was born in June of 1990 and I'm one of these people who, and I don't want to call it a myth but I really thought I could do it all and I fully intended to be home for six weeks with this child and be right back at work full-time. Well, I can tell you that, within a week of his birth, I turned to my husband and I said, "Walker, I am not going back to work period for six months and, at that point, we'll see what I'm going to do" because I had fallen in love with this baby and I just couldn't see leaving him. And I was lucky to be a position where I could be home. So, after six months, I said, "Let's go part-time. I'm gong to go back part-time and just do the afternoon program with the children." During the day, we would come into the schools and tutor and such. So I said, well, I'll go back part-time and I did and I did that for about nine months. And, at that point, I said, you know, I'm not really doing any of it especially well and I have this side of me that likes to do things pretty well, as best I can, I should say, and I didn't feel like I was being as good a mom as I could be, as good a wife and as good an employee and I'm sure you've heard lots of women say that.

Jones: I know the feeling.

Taylor: And you know the feeling. So I said, at this point, I'm going to leave the work behind and dedicate myself to being mom and wife and volunteering in church and those things so I did. And that was a good decision and I look back and I don't regret that in any way, shape or form. It was a good decision for all of us.

Jones: They needed you, too.

Taylor: They needed me and I just decided, I have this one shot at being a mom and I want to do it as well as I can. That is not to say that people who work can't do a fabulous job. I have two sisters who did to back to work the day their babies turned six weeks, have worked full-time their entire careers and they have the most delightful of children. So not an indictment of any-- either style. Just this is what worked for us.

Jones: How many children do you have, Amy?

Taylor: We have three children, two boys and a girl, and my second son was born in 1993 and I share that part with you because it leads me to where I was going and heading with my volunteer work. I had a good friend who was the development director at the domestic violence shelter and I...

Jones: This was in the '90s?

Taylor: This is '93, '94 and she called and said would I come to a meeting, you know, please come. We're trying to raise some money. I thought, oh, gosh, you know, this is not what I want to be doing right now. I've got a three-year-old, I have a three month old, life's pretty busy. But I said sure, you know, of course. So I--

Jones: So a guilt thing?

Taylor: Yeah. Now, little guilt thing and not to mention she's one of my dearest friends from Davidson and I, you know, she would do the same for me. And I wasn't particularly compelled by the issue of domestic violence but, you know, as a woman, you feel some compassion for your fellow females so I went to a meeting. We were trying to raise-- the goal was we were going to raise $10,000 to put a new roof on the shelter and I sat in the meeting and I knew one of the other women in there and she was-- the idea was, we were going to get 100 people to raise $100 doing different, creative kinds of things, not just write the check, okay? Sort of draw them into what the mission is and what the commitment is for the domestic violence shelter. So, at the end of our time together, my friend, Maven, says, "Would you all like a tour of the shelter?"

Jones: I know who you're talking about.

Taylor: You know Maven?

Jones: Yeah.

Taylor: So, of course, we'd love a tour of the shelter. At this time, the administrative offices were still housed with the shelter. Before we went on the tour, you have to sign a statement of confidentiality and I understood that and then she said, "Do not be surprised if you see someone you know here." Well, that really brought me up short in that moment because I thought, "I don't know anybody who would be here. I don't know anybody whose experienced domestic violence." So we're walking through the shelter and you see the children's room and they're pretty and they're safe and you feel that and we walked into the kitchen and I saw a woman standing at the counter in the kitchen of the shelter and her back was to us. As she turned, it was very obvious that she was about eight months' pregnant. Now, I had just had my second child and I have to say my pregnancies were those that, you know, and maybe the gift of some time has made me see them in more glowing terms but they were wonderful, happy, loving times for my husband and me, just very joyful. And it absolutely broke my heart to see this woman who was eight months' pregnant standing at the counter at the domestic violence shelter. And while I didn't see someone I knew, which was what I thought could perhaps happen, this woman, her presence just really spoke to me. So I said, "Maven, I'm happy to do whatever you need." A girlfriend and I who were in the meeting, just happened to be in the meeting together, both of us tennis players, said, "Well, let's put on a tennis tournament." You know? It would have been so easy to write a check. We said, "Let's put on a tennis tournament to benefit the shelter."

Jones: So that was your idea?

Taylor: So that was my start with the shelter. And we did. In 1994, we put on a tournament in the midst of having two young children, building a house, having my baby break his leg, we put on a tennis tournament and my tennis team going to the state tournament. It was crazy and I look back on it, it was crazy.

Jones: This was what year, 1994?

Taylor: 1994. So June of 1994...

Jones: Ask the busiest people.

Taylor: Well, and that's what they say. If you want to get something done, ask the people who are busy because they get things done. Did our first tournament at Echo Farms. We raised something like $2,000 and we felt great about it but what we really got was that this tennis community was so generous. They loved the tournament. It was serious tennis but it wasn't a sanctioned kind of a tournament and we thought, this tennis community is great. We'll do it again. So we started what has become the annual tournament and we will be having our 13th year this year.

Jones: And you're still working on it?

Taylor: And I'm still working on it. We took one year break when I had had my third child and my partner who I do this with had gone back to school to get a master's degree and we just said, "Can't do it this year. We'll be back next year." Which was beautiful. The tennis folks didn't miss a beat. Everybody comes back the next year. Last year, 2007, we raised $23,000. We have over 200 players. We use two venues and it is, you know, it has its moments where I think, oh, gosh, you know, what am I doing? But, by and large, it is the most uplifting experience to have these people, who love to play tennis, come and be willing to open their wallets to the shelter. The day is fun. We've just made it a happy...

Jones: You're offering something...

Taylor: ...event.

Jones: get something better back.

Taylor: We are. And we have someone come to receive the check each year and it's just been an extraordinary opportunity to serve the community, to provide some funding and to raise awareness. Now, you have 200 people coming and then they have their friends coming. We do a big lunch so it's an opportunity to share the mission of the shelter.

Jones: And it's fun.

Taylor: And it's so much fun. Now, at the end of the day, Diane and I are just, like, wet rags. We're on the ground, we're so tired, but we have people to help us and people donate. Everything is donated. The entire-- we do not spend a dime to put on a tennis tournament for over 200 people. Everything in the community is donated.

Jones: That's wonderful.

Taylor: So it's uplifting, it's joyful, it's powerful and I love it and I love being able to do that. As a result of doing that tennis tournament, I ended up being asked to get on the board at the shelter seven years ago.

Jones: So it was seven years that you were...

Taylor: I served for six years. It's a six year term. I served for six years on the board and enjoyed that immensely, liked getting to know the people who are willing to give their time and talent and the talented, incredible staff there who give so much of themselves every day to these women. So it's a tough issue. It can be hard to be around.

Jones: Yeah, I was going to ask you about that, we're very limited here and I understand that, I'm just getting your perspective as a volunteer, as a wife, as a mother who doesn't have to deal with this sort of thing in your own life, the affect, perhaps, it's had on you and I'm sure a number of other people as well.

Taylor: Right. And I think that the affect that it's had on me is just, first of all, an awareness because, for someone who is so fortunate to not have had this touch her life, I didn't have an awareness of it and so, to have an opportunity to-- and I don't-- board members-- don't misunderstand, I don't work, I never have, directly with the women who are battered. We have a professional staff who does that but simply to know what it's like, to hear from these folks when we get to hear their testimonials and sometimes they'll come and share what their journey has been. The courage that it takes for these women to get out of these abusive relationships. I have just tremendous admiration for them is really what I've walked away with. It's a terrible, terrible life to have to life but to be willing to say, I'm going to get out and to do it is a testament to the strength of these women and their families and the services that they can receive from the shelter.

Jones: How has this affected not just you-- well, everybody's different. They see things differently but I think there must be a main thread here. But those who you've worked with, I'm not saying this right. There are people out there, and I know that many of them are fearful of coming forth and with children. Our granddaughter had her first year of teaching at Freeman Elementary School and ran into a couple of very interesting scenarios and I know there's very little that teachers can do. You, as a teacher, know that. And there's probably very little that so many other people, whether it's social services or what, can do until things reach a certain point. On the board, you were interested, I guess, in raising money, being on various committees, making sure that things were in place to make it happen.

Taylor: Right.

Jones: But is there a time as almost a professional volunteer and that's basically what you turned out to be, god love you, that you felt like there was something missing, that there was something that people should know about, there's something that can be done?

Taylor: You mean in terms of the...

Jones: How it affected you in your own life, yeah, in that way.

Taylor: The issue. I guess, in my own life, certainly having a daughter has made me ever more aware that she needs to be encouraged to make good decisions all along. I think that, as a parent and as an adult who can be a role model to children, you have to let them have opportunities along the way to make decisions. When they make the good decisions, you praise and you encourage and you celebrate that. When they make a decision that's not so good, you say, "Let's go back and look at what made you make this choice," because it is a choice and I think that, if you can build a young person, a young woman up to the place where she feels that she has enough power to make good decisions in her life...

Jones: That's very interesting and I think that's what we're looking for.

Taylor: Right. And you take these young women and-- but I think that, if you have not given a child, from the earliest ages, the opportunity to make age appropriate decisions, and that's important because if you ask too much for them to make a decision that is beyond what they're really able to do, a decision that maybe a parent should be making, you're going to create a difficult situation but ask them to make age appropriate decisions at each step in their development as they come along. Hopefully, when they get to be 18, 19, 20, even younger, dating, 15, 16, they can see that they are in charge of making those choices and, if they have made a choice that's not right, if this person that they're with is not behaving in a way that they know is acceptable, that they have the strength and the ability to say, "I'm going to get out of this relationship."

Jones: Amy, since 1994, when-- well, your first involvement was the tennis tournament. When did you go on the board? Seven years ago?

Taylor: I guess I went in 2001.

Jones: Okay, something like that. With the growth of this area, the tremendous growth of this area, in all ways, we've seen the arts community grow, industry or businesses move in here, which means the medical center has grown, everything else has grown.

Taylor: Right.

Jones: Do you suppose there has been a cause and effect that perhaps you're seeing more abusive families, women, or is this just something that I guess just would happen on a normal basis?

Taylor: Well, I think that, what we see...

Jones: The frustrations cause it or...

Taylor: Yeah, and I think that there's two answers, there's two parts to that question. The first is to say, yes, with the growth in our population, we have seen a growth in the need for our services and that is documented by the information that the shelter has in terms of who they serve and how many people they serve. Unfortunately, yes, with that growth, there has been an upsurge in the number of women who need our services. So that's frustrating and, about five years ago, we said, well, you know, we can continue to try and serve but we are going to stay busy forever. It's, like, the ocean. You're going to have the next wave of people. What can we do on the other side of the equation to try and bring this number down? And that's prevention. Somehow, figuring out a way to get to young people, men, boys and girls, to teach the message of prevention and we were very fortunate, at the shelter, to get a CDC grant to provide a prevention specialist which is what all shelters need to be moving to. You know, money is always going to be part of the equation and your money needs to go to those you need to serve immediately, of course, but if you can have enough money to provide services through a prevention coordinator, you then are hoping to change a generational situation, to take a generation of young people and say, this is not right. We don't use our bodies to hurt other people. We don't use words to control other people. The message is out there and we start with the elementary school children and we go in. The shelter folks go in, the professionals who understand the issue go in and start with that message and they continue with that message with these children in New Hanover County all the way through their high school. They work with folks out here at UNCW trying to make sure that the college age folks are getting the message of prevention, to try to stem the early causes of domestic violence. So that's uplifting to me. Again, of course you have to serve the folks who have been battered and need your immediate services but, if you can put some energy and resources into prevention, perhaps we won't be quite so busy down the road.

Jones: I've heard so often that, and in almost anything, to start early with kids. How can you get across to a child at, say, third, fourth grade, they're not infants, who are already very-- too much aware of what's going on? And you can talk to them in schools, you can have after day programs and so forth. They still have to go home at night.

Taylor: That's right.

Jones: And that's all washed away because it's survival time.

Taylor: Well, we hope it's not all washed away but you're absolutely right that, you know, parents are the single most important formative element in a child's life and there's no doubt about that in the household you grow up in. But we see, time after time, that there are young people who come from situations that we just think would be unbearable and somehow figure out a way to rise above it and change. So we're looking to try and find those agents of change, whether they be a teacher, a minister, a coach, anyone who is involved in the lives of these young people who can model and try to show them that there is a different way. To ask young children to try and change their parents, I think, is untenable.

Jones: Yeah.

Taylor: But to say to them, you will, one day, be an adult and you have a choice to live your life differently I think is the message that we would try and get across.

Jones: You, personally, after all this time, and you've worked in the school system, certainly as a coach.

Taylor: I have.

Jones: You went through a lot of changes there, too, working with kids. That's a way of working off steam, I think, and it's good for them, the self-esteem they get. What, in your estimation, as a mother, as a volunteer, and we haven't even touched on you, you said you do volunteer work for your church as well.

Taylor: I do.

Jones: And in the schools. What is there, is there any secret, is there anything to recognize the inception of an abusive type of situation? They're not all from the lower income people, unfortunately. Is there a pattern? Does anybody know about this kind of thing? Is there any identifying way of behavior of anything so that you can then alert?

Taylor: Well, I would be out of my element to speak probably too specifically to those particular issues of what are the signs and those kinds of things. I think there are signs that parents and-- not parents-- teachers and people who work with young people would see, you know, when you have a big change...

Jones: Or even mothers.

Taylor: Yeah.

Jones: Parents.

Taylor: Right.

Jones: And fathers.

Taylor: So I don't-- I guess I can't, I don't feel qualified to answer that kind of a question except to say that, you know, we're all humans and we understand humanity and, if I were to see someone who's had a change in behavior, go to school and see a child who's not eating for a number of days in a row, grades are slipping, language is changing, all those kinds of things that you think, something's going on and listen to your heart. You know, you're usually right. You're usually right when you say, something's happening in that family that's going on.

Jones: But aren't you kind of handicapped as to how far you can go, what you can say?

Taylor: Of course you are and we're living in a litigious society and there are a lot of things that sort of handcuff us so that we can't help in the way that we can. So, again, I come back to be the best role model you can for that child. Show that child that there might be some other ways to live. And then, certainly, you know, teachers have to, by law, report if they suspect abuse and that kind of thing. So there are-- society has set up, fortunately, organizations, governmental organizations and such that need to intervene when there is abuse for a child. But it's hard to see the signs and you're absolutely right. This is not something that is only in one group of people. It is across the board. It is all races. It is all socioeconomic groups and people don't realize-- and I was one who was guilty of that. I had a prejudice that it was in a certain particular group of people and it's not. And so that's something that I think that's an awareness piece that we need to continue, as a society, to recognize that this is not an isolated to one certain type of family event.

Jones: Right. Have you, in your volunteer work, whether it's church or whatever, worked hand in hand with other groups or church groups or youth groups or I know there's a wide network, and fortunately so many of them are so marvelous in their outlook, whether it's homeless shelters or food kitchens or whatever.

Taylor: Right. Our church does work with the homeless shelter. In terms of the domestic violence shelter, a lot, I know Cape Fear Academy has sent children out there to do work so there's lots of different groups that do. In fact, I know my daughter's school knitted scarves to take to the women at the shelter so there are so many wonderful folks in the community who do reach out and try and help and do different things for the women, for the children, anything from, such as I said, knitting scarves to coming and tending the gardens, you know? There's so many different ways that people can and do help. There's not one network, though, I don't think, that, you know, serves as a clearing house for that. The shelter is very open to different kinds of groups coming in and helping and doing so, through my other volunteer areas, I do a lot of work in the schools, I do work at the church, I do work at the...

Jones: Let's talk about those. What do you do in the schools? As a certified teacher...

Taylor: Well, what I...

Jones: ...that's a natural draw.

Taylor: I've done two things in the schools that have really grabbed me and my other love, aside from sports and athletics and the positives it can have in people's lives is reading. I'm a big reading advocate. About seven or eight years ago, I started a program at Alderman called Reading Rocks'. It's R-O-C-K-S apostrophe, you know, that was sort of the new buzzword, everything rocks for the kids, that was their word so we called it Reading Rocks'.

Jones: They're still using it I think.

Taylor: Yeah. They probably are. Mine are, anyway. So I went to several other volunteers at Alderman Elementary, started a community reading day where we would bring in different people from the larger community and each classroom would have a reader come and read a book to that age and it was age appropriate and about their subject. For instance, the wonderful folks at UNCW would bring an entire van of student athletes and this is something very important to me because I think...

Jones: Fantastic.

Taylor: ...if the young people in the elementary can see the boys who play the baseball, soccer, the girls who play tennis, and the golf team came, see that reading is important and it's important throughout and that these young people do, in fact, like to read and it's a wonderful day. It's just a celebration of reading and I started that at Alderman. Did that. Chaired that for about four or five years and passed that off about two years ago because I decided, four years ago, one of my good friends, who I'm in a book club with, with whom I'm in a book club, had started the Battle of the Books, which is a national reading program but it had not been done at the elementary level in New Hanover County.

Jones: I've never heard of that one. Battle of the Books.

Taylor: Oh, Battle of the Books. It's fantastic. It's a nice opportunity, Carol, for students whose strength is reading to have an opportunity to participate and shine in their area. You know, we have things where the kids get to sing and we have dance programs and we have the turkey trot run for the kids who are good but we didn't have something to really lift up these kids who are terrific readers.

Jones: Actually read real books.

Taylor: It's fantastic. You'd love it. And so my book club friend, she and I have children the same age, said I'm starting a program at Parsley and she did. And, the next year, I said, well, I'm starting a program at Alderman. So I got with our gifted teacher and I got with our librarian and we started Battle of the Books at Alderman Elementary.

Jones: Now, explain how that works.

Taylor: It is so great. And it feeds my...

Jones: Does one school battle the other one or...

Taylor: ...competitive needs, which-- because I am an athlete and I love competition but I also love reading and I need to back up. That might come across a little too strongly. It is not about the competition. It is really about exposing young children to different genres of literature.

Jones: That's fantastic.

Taylor: So what it is, there's a national list. There are 30 books on the list.

Jones: Now, this Battle of the Books is a national organization?

Taylor: It's a national program. Exactly. And New Hanover County has had it in the middle schools for a long time and then the national group dropped it down to including a list for fourth, fifth and sixth. So we decided at Alderman that we would start a program and we had, I think, the first year, about 10 or 12 fourth and fifth graders who read the 30 books and then you have a little battle in the school where you ask very specific questions. I read all 30 books. My old mind could not hold onto the details like these young people.

Jones: Now, which grade are you speaking of?

Taylor: Fourth and fifth graders.

Jones: Fourth and fifth graders.

Taylor: So they read all 30 books and you have the battle with a moderator and a time keeper and a score keeper and the parents came and you ask questions and the children are so focused and they remember the smallest details from these books. So we had our first battle. Was fantastic. Just at our school. So at this point, it's at Parsley Elementary because my friend started a program there and Alderman because I, with the help of the teacher and librarian, started a program there. Well, our gifted teacher says, this is so great, I'm going to go back and share it with all the other gifted education teachers in the elementary and our supervisor. So, the next year, we have now started a county Battle of the Books program for elementary.

Jones: Fantastic.

Taylor: And I was-- and this is self-serving. I had a fifth grade son who I wanted to have read the books and I now have a, the next year, a third grade daughter who is an avid reader. And so I said--

Jones: Now, you still had that Reading Rocks' program?

Taylor: Reading Rocks' is still going on and I've done that-- I did that hand in hand with Battle of the Books for a year or two but I have, in the last two years, gotten another person to chair that and I have stepped out of Reading Rocks'. It's still going. They had it just a couple weeks ago. You can go on the UNCW webpage and see the student athletes reading to the children. Great program. We had the mayor this year, we had city council so that's often-- I feel like I've done my thing with that and it's going. The battle--

Jones: Amy, do you ever sleep?

Taylor: I do sleep. I do sleep. I love to sleep, actually. The Battle now-- my daughter's in the third grade and she's got this group of really talented third graders with her so I say to the librarian, and the gifted teacher, "Could we do, like, a mini battle for the third graders because this is a really bright group of young people?" So we do a little mini battle. We're still doing fourth and fifth. My little third grade daughter gets to do half the list. They have their own battle and now she's in the fifth grade and we have something like ten fifth graders, seven or eight fourth graders, seven or eight third graders so we have a huge group doing the Battle of the Books program at Alderman and it is fabulous. Again, it's not for everybody. You need to be someone who loves to read. There are challenging books on the list. We've got The Hobbit, The Westin Game, The House of Dies Drear, you know, some challenging books. So you need to love to read.

Jones: And you have to, I'm sure, engage your parents.

Taylor: Well, you do and our parents are great and I email them every couple of weeks, you know, please keep encouraging, you can listen to books on tape, you can read to them. We read every week at school, they give me about 45 minutes that I go in and read a book with the children so, between all of those different groups, you can do it but you have to be committed. It's a challenge to read 30 books for these kids.

Jones: Now, is this what came from your UNCW athletes that would come to the school, was that the beginning?

Taylor: No, that was just a different-- you know, I had started that and got that going and the Battle of the Books was just feeding into my compulsion to have young people read because I really think that's the ticket. I think that a knowledge of words and language at that young age is just an absolute must for young people. The book list is great because it's books that, you know, we all have our genre that we like but this has biography on it, it has historical fiction, it has fantasy, science fiction, it has a few very simple but-- simple in terms of the length of the book but the picture books that have just great messages in them, there's a couple of those on the list. So it exposes the children to a variety and then they read a book by an author and they say, I love that author. I'm going to go read the rest of that-- the other body of work and that's what we, as adults, do. We find an author...

Jones: That's true.

Taylor: ...we love and we say, I'm going to go read the rest of the books by her. I love what she writes. So it's been really a wonderful program for us and that's been my choice of-- I've done a lot of other things as a parent in the schools. I did the room mom, which was not my gift. I do not do crafts well so you find these things out about yourself and you gravitate to what you're good at and what you enjoy and that's been my venue to be involved in her-- both of their experiences in school.

Jones: So you've done the tennis tournament, which is an ongoing thing. You raised 23,000 last year.

Taylor: This past year, 23,000. Had an extraordinary...

Jones: You've been on domestic violence forever and ever.

Taylor: I have.

Jones: And you've done this through the schools after teaching and whatever. I don't know how you do this but now let's get to the church part. What...

Taylor: Church. Well, I love doing my church work and I've done a lot of different things with church but the area where I'm-- I've been on the vestry, I'm a member at St. James Episcopal Church downtown and I've served on the vestry for three years.

Jones: Do you cook dinner?

Taylor: I'm getting better. (laughter) I'm good at ordering out. I'm good at pickup. We're good at frozen. I'm not a good cook but that's okay, like I say...

Jones: But your husband puts up with it.

Taylor: need to know your strengths and I have a husband who doesn't complain about dinner. The food is not-- that wouldn't be one of my strengths.

Jones: That's okay. We'll forgive you.

Taylor: But, at church, I've been on the vestry and I've been involved in Christian education has been my area where I've been involved and I'm second grade Sunday school teacher now for many years. I really love it and I have actually gone from teaching the curriculum that we were given to creating my own second grade curriculum with a friend of mine, we co-teach. This came out of an opportunity to do a program called Education for Ministry which is out of Suwannee. It's a college level-- you may be familiar with it. Wonderful opportunity to study the bible and you study church history and you study modern theologians and, as a result of my four years taking this course, I revamped our second grade Sunday school a little bit. I love teaching second grade. We have more fun and we have comments that the children say I have to share one with you. We were studying the ten commandments and, you know, the language on those can be different. You have the sort of the old testament language and then you have the more modern that might be a little easier for the seven and eight year olds we teach to grab hold of. So, commandment seven says, "Be faithful in your marriage." And we're teaching this to the children and saying, you know, you have a boyfriend or a girlfriend when you're in high school or college and when you finish school and that's fine and you might have one and then decide you don't really like that person as much and have somebody else. But, once you're in a marriage, you have your commitment to one person. If you're a woman, you have your husband and that's it. And one of the little girls raises her hand and she says, "You know, that's kind of funny because I have to tell you, there are a lot of men who really like my mom." (laughter)

Jones: Out of the mouths of babes.

Taylor: And her mom's committed to a wonderful marriage and she's a beautiful woman. There probably are a lot of men who really like her mom.

Jones: Probably.

Taylor: But we just get these funny comments and things that just freak you out.

Jones: Well, sure. The guise of a child's mind, you know?

Taylor: Yes.

Jones: It's wonderful.

Taylor: So I do enjoy that very much and I'm on our search committee presently for a new music director. I am the...

Jones: Why is it that all the churches are constantly looking for music directors?

Taylor: I don't know the answer to that. Learning a lot more about it but, as choir mom for the junior choir, they needed someone who could say, let's be sure this person we bring on board recognizes the need for music in the lives of our young children. So I'm sort of the rep for, you know, the children in terms of music. My daughter's in the choir so that's been interesting. I'm learning a lot about church musicians. I like that and, you know, the church work is delightful. Sometimes you can get a little cranky over certain things and then you go, wait a minute, you know, we're in here doing church work, let's back up and remember why we're here.

Jones: Amy, is there anything that you've left out of your life that you want to do? I mean, surprise me.

Taylor: I won't surprise you but I do want to include in the interview my work at Davidson College because Davidson is very dear to me and I think...

Jones: Please talk about it.

Taylor: ...that a lot of my sense of service comes from my four years at Davidson. Davidson is a school that has been affiliated with the Presbyterian church and the Presbyterian church has a such a strong ethos of serving others. While it's not, you know, bang it over your head, they don't, you know, stuff it down your throat, at Davidson, that sense of being a servant leader is very much a part of who the college is. I think, from my years at Davidson, I took that with me and realized that, you know, I want to be someone who gives back to the community and finding what my gifts are and serving the community. I've shared with you some of the things I do and one of the other pieces that is a large part of who I am right now is serving in Davidson College's board of trustees.

Jones: Good for you.

Taylor: I'm in my fifth year of doing that. It has been an extraordinary opportunity to interact with people who have led lives that are so admirable in what they do and it's a varied board. The opportunity to interact with the board has been stimulating. The opportunity to interact with the amazing faculty that we have there and their staff has really been an opportunity for me to grow and learn. That's been a big part of my last five years in terms of service and I had the wonderful opportunity to be asked to serve on a presidential search committee for Davidson College last year. Our president of ten years had announced that he was resigning and so we went through a year-long process to hire a new president for the college. Talk about inspiring. The people with whom we had to interview and talk who were interested and being a servant leader, because being a college president is servant leadership to me. It is one of the most exhausting, difficult, challenging and rewarding jobs there can possibly be. So to interact with these folks and to go through the process was uplifting in every way for me and, you know, I'm a housewife and so you think, well, what are you bringing to the table? But I love interacting with people. I think I have a pretty good sense of who people are and it was just an opportunity for me to see what it takes to run a university or a college and the willingness of people to do that job and do it well. So that I did want to share with you, that my...

Jones: I'm glad you did.

Taylor: My services through Davidson, I've loved that.

Jones: This has been a wonderful interview.

Taylor: Thank you.

Jones: And I thank you for your participation and your giving to this community in so many different ways, all of them worthwhile, all of them meaningful.

Taylor: Thank you.

Jones: I'm looking forward to seeing more of you...

Taylor: Likewise.

Jones: ...on another basis.

Taylor: Yes.

Jones: And I'm kind of scared of it, though. I don't know what you've got me into.

Taylor: You're going to great. You know, it'll be-- I don't know what your experience will be but, based on mine, serving on that board is very uplifting.

Jones: Thank you, Amy.

Taylor: Thank you.

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