For many years, the wealth and affluence of the golf haven of Pinehurst overshadowed the almost inconceivable living conditions of the outlying neighborhoods of Midway, Jackson Hamlet and Waynor Road.
These small, predominately African-American communities in Moore County were devoid of the basic municipal necessities that most towns and residents often take for granted—water and sewer services, adequate police protection, traffic lights.
Since 2005, though, progress has begun to pierce through the racial and social disparities between these two areas, thanks to citizen activists championing the communities' needs and an assist from the Center for Civil Rights at UNC-Chapel Hill.
"If it wasn't for them, we'd still be here with our hand in our lap," says Tommy Jones, a resident for 66 years and treasurer of the neighborhood group Waynor Road in Action. "They helped us out a lot."
Last month, the community of Waynor Road secured a $750,000 federal grant and a $350,000 contribution from the neighboring town of Southern Pines to fund the installation of water and sewer lines, the latest success in a three-year effort to bring urban services to neighborhoods surrounding Pinehurst and Southern Pines.
Currently, Waynor Road's 75 residents have public water, but no public sewer system. Sewer lines are expected to be completed in about two years.
"The center has been working with three communities in Moore County for about the last three years," says Diane Standaert, a fellow at the Center for Civil Rights. "It's been a long relationship we've had down there."
The center has helped bring neighborhood leaders together to highlight the social and economic rift between Pinehurst and communities like Waynor Road.
That convergence of ideas and the formulation of relationships has led to progress since the plight of Midway, Jackson Hamlet and Waynor Road first gained prominence when Pinehurst hosted the 2005 U.S. Open.
Neighborhood leaders who have been successful at securing funding have in turn hosted workshops to aid in other communities' efforts to lobby for municipal resources.
"What we're trying to do is share the process of negotiation and contacts and public opinion and exposure and letting people know what the problem is," says Maurice Holland, president of the Midway Community Association.
Midway and other communities that have been able to secure funding and begun breaking ground are now turning their attention to schooling other communities on the importance of political awareness and community involvement.
"We're about the only people that'll speak out about the wrong thing in this community," says Bobby Person, vice president of Voices for Justice, a community action group that seeks to expose racial injustice in communities throughout North Carolina.
Voices for Justice has helped to host a number of workshops throughout the region. Leaders hope these seminars and discussions will empower communities to address their own problems and take steps to improve living conditions and preserve their towns' history.
"We are an aging population," says Oneal D. Russ, vice president of Jackson Hamlet Community Action Inc. "They desire to remember home. We have a legacy of people who have built things and done things and have a history."
Russ and others hope to spread their knowledge.
"I'll never be a millionaire, but I'm rich with a lot of love in my heart," Russ says. "As long as I live, I have no choice but to fight for justice, socially, economically, for all of my neighbors."
Three Moore County neighborhoods have made significant progress toward improving public services since 2005, when neighboring Pinehurst hosted the U.S. Open and the UNC Center for Civil Rights launched an organizing effort.
Status: water, no sewer
Funding received since 2005: $920,125, which will fund sewer service for approximately one-third of the homes
Status: water, and half of the community has sewer
Funding received since 2005: $859,000, which will fund sewer service for the 29 homes without
Current Status: no water, no sewer
Funding received since 2005: $1,099,200, which will fund water and sewer service for all homes