Theresa Williams Bethea is the coordinator for Kinston Promise Neighborhood, Project Promise Mentoring Alliance and Young Women of Promise/Kinston Youth Enrichment.
Theresa Williams Bethea's
office in the Kinston Enterprise Center
is not too far from where she
Among dozens of plaques, certificates, and hand-made thank you cards from children that decorate her
work space, she
proudly displays a photo of the home in East Kinston she
grew up in.
Despite what that part of town has been through in recent decades, she
is extremely proud to have grown up there, though others sometimes fail to see the potential.
"I like Kinston, but I don't necessarily care much for the criticisms that I hear about it," she
"I am an advocate for East Kinston. ...
I grew up in East Kinston."
Bethea left her hometown after graduating from Kinston High School in 1976 to attend UNC Chapel Hill.
At the time, she
did not exactly envision herself moving back.
"I don't think I ever said, 'I'll never go back to Kinston
,' " she
has been helping area children reach their goals in part by using some of the skills she
acquired while working around the state.
has written more than $1 million in successful grant proposals since moving back home.
She also helped start the Latino organizations La Voz ENC and N.C. Field to complete initial paperwork and gain tax exempt status and organized Kinston's Martin Luther King Jr. annual observance.
"I've been organizing Martin Luther King events for the past 10 years - I did it for five years in the Cabarrus County area, and I brought it with me when I came back home," she
"We successfully held five annual observances (in Kinston).
Each time, we've been able to recognize individuals in the community who are having a positive impact.
It gets my year started off on a nice note every year."
As positive and optimistic Bethea
received news two years ago that not only threatened her
activity in the community but potentially her
"In June 2010, I got a cancer diagnosis," she
"I spent quite a few months in denial, but it is a reality in my life, so it's changed a little bit the way I do things."
is undergoing chemotherapy for multiple myeloma, a cancer of plasma cells in bone marrow.
is staying hopeful and said her
doctors say the prognosis is good.
will eventually have to undergo a bone marrow transplant which will take her
out of commission for a few months.
"It's important that others are willing to step up to the plate and assume some of the responsibility with what we're doing," she
"I'm not saying I'm planning on leaving anytime soon, but I do have a serious cancer and I just wanted to make sure that the work doesn't end with me. ...
I just want to make sure we've got people and we're grooming people for leadership to help take over this work."
said as long as she
is able, she
will continue to dedicate her
time and efforts to better the community and influence youth to come back to their hometown as she
"I'm a product of the community," she
To volunteer with projects around Kinston
, call Theresa Williams Bethea