EAST LAURINBURG — Barbara Kingwood Black retired earlier this month as program coordinator for the after-school program at Partners in Ministry.
But the job title hardly sums up what she has meant to the East Laurinburg program and its students and staff.
Those who know Black describe her as an innovator, teacher, activity director, recruiter and mentor. They say she could even bake a peerless sweet potato pie raise money for the school or just feed staff.
“Not only did she know each student, she had also taught many of their parents and sometimes the grandparents too,” the ministry said in a farewell to the longtime educator. “We will miss you, Mrs. Black, from your smile and laugh to your pound cake, strawberry short cake, and sweet potato pie.”
Dr. Carolyn Banks, director for the SYSTEM — Strengthening Youth through Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math — after-school and summer program, said the effort might not have been possible without the retired Scotland County educator. Black helped write the grant for the project that began in Gibson before relocating to East Laurinburg.
“She was really one of the founders,” Banks said. “And when the program got started, she would teach, direct and schedule activities … just do about anything and everything in the beginning.”
Black was born in Lumberton and moved to Laurinburg when she was 3, later graduating from the former I. Ellis Johnson High School. She went on to get a degree in business education with minor in English.
She taught school in New Jersey before moving back to Scotland County in 1980 where she taught English. When she retired in 2004, she worked at the after-school program at the Alternative Academy in East Laurinburg. She also served as a mentor for teachers for several years.
She said she then joined Partners in Ministry and helped get after-school program off the ground.
Partners In Ministry began as an outreach ministry working with the poor and marginalized through empowerment, encouragement and education. It focuses on three areas: housing, youth empowerment, and resource and referrals.
Black has loved every minute of serving in the youth program.
The after-school program assists students with homework, provides a meal and snack and includes an enrichment hour. The SYSTEM served about 300 students during the last school year. There are about 80 signed up for the summer session that began on Monday.
“I sure hope that I have made a difference in these young lives,” she said. “I think a program like ours is much needed in the county. We not only help them with their school work, but expose children to other areas like chorus, miming and the arts.”
Black said the program also includes trips to places outside the county that students might not ordinarily see.
“When you see the excitement in the faces of the students and their gratitude after a trip …. it is something that I’m going to miss,” Black said. “But I’m going to miss everything about going to work there … the children, the people and spreading the ministry because it truly is a ministry trying to improve the lives of children and families.”
Banks said Black leaves big shoes to fill.
“It is almost impossible to replace someone with at kind of experience,” Banks said. She was the kind of person who knew how to do things without it being written down. And she was also someone with a great desire to help children. I understand that she wants to be grandma, but she will be missed.”
Blacks said that she plans to move with her husband, Thomas, to Owen Mills, Md. to spend time with her children and grandchildren. They will make the move at the end of the month.
“I think it is about time to slow down,” she said with a laugh. “I’m a 74-year-old young person.”
But even in retirement — her third — Black said she wants to stay active in church and volunteering.
“There is always something you can do for others,” she said. “Somebody in a nursing home may need me to come read to them. I’m a server.”