Thursday, May 31, 2012

In Bladen County, Community Leaders Teach Their Neighbors, 1945

By F.H. Jeter, Extension Editor, N.C. State College, Raleigh, as published in the Wilmington Star on May 28, 1945

In most counties, a splendid organization of neighborhood leaders has been perfected. These are men and women who have been selected by their neighbors to carry on the educational work affecting local people. Through their county home and farm agents, they get educational material pertaining to important farm movements, and pass this on to the people of the neighborhood. In return the people tell their leaders of their needs and this is sent back up the line until it reaches the agricultural authorities of the state and nation. It’s a very good arrangement and it works.

It works especially well in Bladen County where Mrs. Lillie L. Hester has been home agent for so many years that she could well be called a veteran. She and the farm agent, R.B. Harper, are doing excellent work. Mrs. Hester says that one reason why the work in the rural home has been so outstanding is because she has the aid of the women neighborhood leaders in addition to the fine leadership supplied by her home demonstration clubs. She also has an able assistant, Jean Craven, daughter of a former farm agent and one of the pioneers in Extension.

Mrs. Hester says that the neighborhood leaders cut across the home demonstration clubs and reach people both in and out of the clubs. They attend to the affairs of their local groups and try to carry to them all the good things that they know about.

For instance, out in Bladenboro, Route 2, is Mrs. Luther Bryan, who lives in a small community of 30 families. There is no home demonstration club out there, but last year Mrs. Bryan made four different visits to all of the families to share information on food production, fat salvage, gardens and other matters. Mrs. Bryan found time to do this although there are two small children in the family and she naturally helps her husband in handling their 20 acres of cultivated land. She has taught the use of the pressure canner in the neighborhood in addition to canning 360 quarts for feeding her own family. The Bryans live in a modest brick home with a well-sodded grass lawn beautified with shrubs. To one side is the garden and flowerbeds, and to the rear are the poultry yards and the service area, including the barns and outhouses.

Over in another neighborhood, a few miles away on the same rural route, are the June Singletarys, man and wife, both neighborhood leaders and outstanding in their contributions. They also have two children, and they cultivate 120 acres of land, grow some 800 to 1,000 Hampshire Red chickens, own seven brood sows, plant grain and tobacco, and produce corn on 50 acres for feed. The Singletarys have a beautiful old country home surrounded by boxwoods which look as if they were set shortly after North Carolina was first settled. To one side is a lovely lake surrounded by giant oaks from which hang the long tendrils of Spanish moss. These two people are noted for their neighborhood efforts with better varieties of crops, poultry growing, gardening, canning, and rural electrification.

The same is true of Mrs. T.A. Butler of near Bladenboro and Mrs. Warren Gooden of Clarkton. Mrs. Gooden has done remarkable work in teaching better gardening and canning. Last year, she personally canned over 700 quarts of food for winter, including 40 quarts of fresh meat. She sells between 1,000 and 1,200 broilers each year and gives away plants and cuttings of all kinds.

Mrs. Hobson Sanderlin of Council is another of the noted and charming Bladen leaders. There are four neighborhoods in the Carvers Creek community, each with four leaders, and these have united into an organization of which Mrs. Sanderlin is secretary and C.L. Braddy is president. The people meet together at the nearby grammar school for canning lessons, for demonstrations in renovating old furniture, for studying shrubs and flowers, for garden work, and for holding suppers or engaging in any other activity which seeks to promote the welfare of the community.

Mrs. Sanderlin wrote an Easter pageant calling for a cast of some 100 people and this has been so popular that it has been presented now for six years. Even the Negro people of the community help with the pageant by supplying a well-trained choir of 50 voices. There is no one building in the community large enough to hold the crowd, and only the first comers can find seats.

Mrs. Fatima Andrews is another leader living in the Kelly neighborhood, and has been very effective in teaching her people how to can fish and fruit for winter food.

The whole idea moves along over the county in wonderful harmony. Mrs. Hester says, “I wouldn’t even try to be a home agent in this large county were it not for these splendid women who help me every day. They make the job easy.”

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