- Associated Press - Monday, September 28, 2015

ROANOKE RAPIDS, N.C. (AP) - From the front yard of her downtown Roanoke Rapids home, Quintielie Thomas, affectionately called “Mom Dukes” or “Ms. Quint,” mothers over her neighborhood and takes the children under her wing.

“I really don’t know what started it. When I moved to this area four years ago, I just started talking to the kids, being nice to them, and they started coming over every day, wanting to do things, and I just started doing activities with them,” she said of her role in the community. “We walk to the park and have little picnics and reading sessions and make the most of our days. That’s it.”

In the summers, Thomas used to make snacks for the kids that congregated in her yard since school was out and some kids were used to getting their breakfast or lunch there. Two years ago, she said she learned of the summer feeding programs hosted throughout the area that offer meals to school-aged children and teens, and decided to take her growing cohort there for hot meals.

“The ladies down there were so patient with them,” Thomas said. “I brought 13-15 kids every day. The ladies worked with me and were wonderful, all of them.”

That’s where she met Dorothy Green, a volunteer with the summer feeding program at Rosemary Baptist Church, who said she was impressed by what Thomas was doing.

“She’s the good Samaritan of the neighborhood. She’s excellent with the children,” Green said. “You don’t run into many people like that, someone who would take someone else’s children to get lunch, 15 of them at least.”

Green also recalled how much respect and obedience Thomas garnered from the children.

“They know not to cut up around me,” Thomas said. “I demand (respect). They know they have to conduct themselves in a decent manner, and it works. I had a couple kids that would walk down the street cussing like sailors, but as soon as they pass by my house, you don’t hear any cursing. They learn manners.”

She added sometimes kids just need to be heard, talked to and shown attention and it can turn their behavior around. Thomas said she is currently studying early childhood education at Halifax Community College and seeing how the children develop is the most rewarding part of working with them.

“I apply the activities I’ve learned in school with them. I see how each individual is different, what it takes to nurture them. Sometimes a kid just needs a hug,” she noted. “It’s hard to go through life without a little motivation. The kids tend to act a lot different when I take them out and do things with them.”

Even before studying early childhood in school, Thomas said interacting with children in the community was normal for her. She said her mother and other relatives played similar roles in their neighborhoods when she was growing up.

“It’s a community thing,” she said. “Keeping them safe, giving them a safe place, that’s all - that’s why I do what I do. The impact can be unlimited, really.”

Fun is important, she added, but also said she wants to see the children do well in school and encourages reading and homework. One recent Thursday afternoon as some of the children got off the school bus, she asked how their days were and checked in about whether or not they had homework to finish.

She pointed out it isn’t only her engaging with the children and referenced one man down the street that gives free haircuts to children so they can be ready for school. She added when kids need a little extra help, she and others in the neighborhood pitch in to work on concepts like the alphabet and fractions.

The kids know to look forward to seeing her, too.

“I surprise them some days, like at the end of the year, and get a bag of lollipops and pass them out as they come off the bus and they think it’s the best thing ever,” she said with a smile.

The next project she’s working on is putting together a Girl Scout troop for the girls in the area that will expose them to new things and not have a high financial barrier. She gave information to the girls she passed recently and told them to give the paper to their parents.

She said her main goal is to see good things happen for the children in her neighborhood and to be a positive influence when she can be.


Information from: Daily Herald, https://www.rrdailyherald.com/

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