Children at the Oxford Home get a revamped rec center when Walden teams up with alumnae and a current student.
When the doors of the Creasey K. Proctor Recreation Center in Oxford, North Carolina, were reopened after a brief, mysterious closing, more than just the remodeling of a gym and recreation space was revealed.
The doors also opened onto an Act for Good, part of Walden’s ongoing Mobilize for Good initiative. Walden was ready to help when four Walden University community members expressed the need for an updated rec center.
The Proctor Recreation Center is part of the Oxford Home for Children, a residential care center and child welfare agency. “The home,” as residents call it, is centered around individual cottages overseen by house parents who provide a stable and supportive living situation to children whose parents are unable to care for them. There are currently more than 45 children being served by the home.
Walden’s commitment to educating and mobilizing for good is well represented at the home by three recent graduates and one current student, who all work at the facility and are connected not just by their jobs, but by a shared passion for and belief in working toward the greater good.
“All of us recognized the need to update the rec center,” says Amy Still ’21, Master of Social Work (MSW), the home’s program director of direct care and independent living. “The rec center is like the family kitchen. It’s a fun atmosphere where kids can just be kids. These children have seen a great deal of adversity in their short lives. A safe space like that is extremely important.”
In addition to Still, the project team included Winter Watson ’18 MSW, program clinical coordinator at the home; Octavia Ledlow, a house parent who is working toward her Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) at Walden; and Kayla North ’21, MSW, supervisor/clinician at the home.
Together, the team helped initiate and coordinate the rec center renovation by linking with Walden’s Mobilize for Good initiative, which enables alumni to give back to schools that have inspired them and need support.
The team worked with the university to secure funding, materials, and manpower to update the rec center into a freshly renovated multiuse facility complete with new couches, fresh paint, spaces designed for video gaming, and even a mini community library stocked with books celebrating diversity and inclusion. The new space was unveiled in Extreme Makeover: Home Edition style by Walden Alumni Ambassador Manager Ulysesses Wilcox. “The remodeled center creates a safe space where the children can learn and gather and play,” he says. “This is a testament to Walden’s support of our students and graduates.”
When the renovation was unveiled, staff and residents reacted with laughter, shouts of joy, and even a few tears—an immensely gratifying response for the four Walden community members working at the home who believed in the project.
“What moves me is seeing children learn new skills,” Watson says. “I’m most motivated and happy when I see a child learn to manage their emotions, form relationships, and improve communication. I believe the home in general and the renovated rec center both help with all those things.”
“It’s really gratifying to have your graduate school come to the place you work and give back to the community and to children,” North adds.
“It was amazing,” Still concludes.
“It turned out to be what I believed it could be and even more. I was so excited to see the children’s reactions. I try to use my Walden education for good to help every child we serve learn the skills they need to be successful in life. This was another great step toward achieving that.”
In addition to this project, Walden’s Mobilize for Good initiative has backed alumni-supported schools and organizations across the U.S. Other projects have included donating defibrillators and providing CPR training to a high school and school district in Tampa, Florida; providing backpacks filled with food and hygiene products as well as computer tablets to students in two Baltimore schools; and honoring a retiring longtime teacher in Houston by sponsoring a plaque in her honor and donating 10,000 school lunch meals in her name.