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Words of advice, information for lawmakers

Darlene Jacobs, executive director of the Robeson County Church and Community Center:

“At one time, there was a lot of industry here. Then you just had these companies shutting down.

“The unemployment is increasing, not decreasing, and the types of jobs that are needed are not coming into this community. What frightens me is you’ve got these changes in programs such as Medicaid and the food stamp program, and the amount of unemployment (benefits) has been reduced. With those changes, as well as those people who had been in group homes and mental health facilities (who because of state policies are coming back to communities). They’re coming to our doors for help. They have nowhere else to go. It will make us have to be even more that bridge.

“What I’d tell the lawmakers is to reconsider closing the group homes... I’d tell them to help the population who has the greatest need.”

Sallie McLean, mayor of Maxton, near Lumberton, and is the Robeson County Career Pathways director:

“People in Robeson County are very poverty-stricken, and I can relate because I wasn’t born with a silver spoon in my mouth.

“Here lately, I’ve been working with this re-entry group; these guys and women are coming out of prison with no job; there are barriers all over the place. We’re working with the policymakers. That box on job applications that says check if you’ve been incarcerated, that had to go. And a few other barriers. There’s lots of ’em.

“To legislators, I’d say anything you can do to help these folks get back into the community, any kind policy that you can have in their favor, they need it because the barriers need to go so that they can become productive citizens again. Help open the doors for these people because they are coming in droves. My caseload is over 300 as we speak.”

Julia Kennedy, coordinator of the Learning Together program (where parents and children learn together) at CCA. She has four children, two in college. A fifth, a son, got into gangs and was killed:

“I didn’t want to do manufacturing because my parents used to work so hard. I moved to Boston and came back when my mom had a stroke. I moved to Durham and worked for IBM. I came back here and was a worker in mental health then the state said I needed a four-year degree. I went to Robeson Community College and then I was on unemployment for two years. Mr. Mac (and CCA ) helped me. I had lost my car. I would walk for miles. Then Mr. Mac got me a car to use. Doors started opening for me.

“There are a lack of jobs here. I really don’t want my children to live here.

“It’s like it’s a different type of poverty now. It’s hard to get a dollar. Things have changed. Even though we’re in poverty still, it feels like it is worse now than in the past.”

Angelina Phillips, CCA program specialist. She’s been married for 20 years and has two children, and helps support 13. Her husband is volunteer fire chief in Maxton.

“I worked for 15 years in textiles. One day, they called us into a meeting and within 15 minutes everything was shut down. That threw me for a loop, to go from full-time wages to unemployment wages is something totally different. .

“I’ve gone from coming through the door with a dollar and 35 cents in my pocket to where I am now.

“We shed a lot of tears in here. I see a lot of people come in needing help. I see males and females just sitting on the pavement. They’re homeless. It’s sad.

“If I could say something to the legislators, I’d tell them that if they would just come and spend a little time here, they would think differently about the poor. There have been a lot of jobs, textile jobs, taken away from this area. There’s no employment here. To better themselves, people have to leave.”

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