Donations given through the Duke-Durham Campaign are not merely distributed to community organizations; each dollar is leveraged through the work of the Duke-Durham Neighborhood Partnership and its allies on campus.
Martina Dunford, founder of the New Horizons Academy of Excellence, a beneficiary of the 2009 Duke-Durham Campaign, can speak to the significance of the leveraged donation.
“It gives me power and strength everyday I walk in here, the fact that people get it,” Dunford said as she guided visitors through her newly renovated school building, where 100 percent of the repair work was completed pro bono by contractors.
Dunford, who is widely known as “Coach D,” walked a long road to get into this facility on Hunt Street. She began taking care of young people more than 12 years ago, when she realized that children who didn’t fit into the traditional educational system were falling through the cracks.
“I was working in the Few Gardens community and saw a kid suspended for 365 days from DPS at age 13, with nowhere to go,” she said. “So I told his mom to send him down to me and I’ll find something for him to do, so he just isn’t out on the street. It turned into five or six more kids.”
Dunford began recruiting volunteers to mentor and teach the increasing number of young people who found their way to her. Within a few years, her efforts began to receive notice. When an article about her ad hoc school appeared in the local paper, Rick Whitaker of Brown Brothers Plumbing and Heating Inc. saw it and was impressed. He began to advocate for area construction contractors to support New Horizons.
That is how Assistant Director John Cline in Duke’s Facilities Management Department first got behind Dunford’s mission to help Durham’s young people.
“She had this group of construction trade related folks here in town that were really trying to make this a go,” he said.
Dunford planned to lure more young people to New Horizons, with the promise that they could learn the construction trade. For Whitaker, Cline and many others in the construction business, this plan came at just the right moment.
“Paul Manning (Duke’s Director of Project Management in the Facilities Management Department) and I were talking that it is criminal to think that we have young people whose talents are going to waste, when at the same time we have a need to hire people in the construction trades,” Cline said.
Dunford had moved from a location in the Golden Belt complex, to the John Avery Boys and Girls Club, to a spot in the Reality Ministries building. Her allies in the construction industry knew that it was high time for New Horizons to find a home. The building on Hunt Street seemed to have potential, but at first, it didn’t have much more than that.
“There were no walls here, just dust, dirt,” Dunford said. “The architect asked what we needed. I told him how many classrooms, a teacher’s lounge, a conference room, and they said I could have it. I was so excited. There were no windows, no doors, only a big old bay door.”
The school looks very different now. It has polished classrooms full of shiny new textbooks, beautiful tiled bathrooms, a workroom and even gleaming water fountains. Duke’s Office of Procurement provided computers and desks for the school’s computer lab, which can accommodate 40 students. More than that, the school exudes the love and care that Dunford gives to each and every one of the young people who walk through her door.
“I tell them, you can stay here, where I am going to nurture you and love you if you know it or not,” she said.
As her first semester in the new facility winds to a close, Dunford looks hopefully to the future.
“I see producing so many young people with opportunities they never would have had,” she said.
“Coach D” constantly reinforces the importance of community to her students. She tells them that each brick in the school has a different one of their names on it.
“Without you, this wall won’t stay up,” she declares.
This metaphor is apt for the work of the Duke-Durham Campaign: Without each of the generous contributors who make projects like the New Horizons school a reality, the city of Durham would not stand as strongly.