Angela Caraway’s passion to help the children of Anson County was jumpstarted in Japan.
While on a trip to Tokyo, Caraway met another American visitor, a mother who had brought her two children, so they could learn the language and see, feel, experience, and explore the Japanese culture.
“I immediately thought about my niece and nephews, and the other kids back in Anson County, who don’t have the chance to experience a bigger world,” she said. “That’s when I made it my goal to expose children to opportunities and people outside of Anson County.”
That event was one of the motivators for The Caraway Foundation, a non-profit community empowerment organization that focuses on providing opportunities, via educational resources and health awareness —to young and old in Anson County.
The foundation’s roots go back to a 2007 shopping trip to a Garner, NC, supermarket. Caraway, who has no children of her own, thought she heard a distinct voice urging her to buy bookbags. She questioned the voice at first, but eventually went home with $165-worth of school supplies and a conviction that God has been speaking to her. That night she wrote a prospectus for a foundation and began planning a seminar on college preparedness as its first event. She still serves as the foundation’s executive director, in addition to being president of The Caraway Management Group, Inc.
Born in Wadesboro in 1972, Caraway was raised among a large extended family, in an atmosphere of fun, combined with service to others. Her grandmother frequently reminded Caraway that life is about giving back to the community, while her mother instilled an emphasis on the importance of education. Her aunts and uncles made sure she grew up as a respectable young lady.
“Growing up, I just knew that this world is not about me, but it’s about others,” Caraway said. “When I go out in the world, it is not just me. I’m carrying my family’s name along with me.”
Caraway graduated from North Carolina State University in 1995 with a degree in communication. She moved to Maryland, where she worked in the hospitality industry, supporting many non-profit organizations and associations. Returning to North Carolina in 2003, Caraway served as a senior meeting planner for Duke University and the director of marketing and event management at St. Augustine’s University (formerly St. Augustine’s College), gaining invaluable experience for her work with the foundation.
Today, The Caraway Foundation supports a variety of programs designed to make a difference for young people and their families. The Anson Youth Leaders Academy focuses on character, leadership skills and preparing students to be community leaders. The male mentoring program connects boys with positive role models.
To support education, the foundation has worked in partnership with The Kramden Institute to provide over 1,500 refurbished computers to families with at least one student between the 3rd and 12th grades and lacking a working computer. It has also sponsored back-to-school events that donate school supplies to students in Anson County.
In 2016, The Caraway Foundation sent a group of young African-American men to Washington, D.C., with the goal of inspiring them to dream big and recognize all the opportunities available to them. That message is one of the reasons Caraway hopes to one day send children to Walt Disney World. “Every kid should go to Walt Disney World,” she said.
Caraway’s constant message to young people who are struggling in school is to seek help and assistance.
“Everyone has the right to receive help,” she said. “It doesn’t matter whether you reach out to friends, parents, teachers, or guidance counselors, but realize that no one should be in this by themselves. ““I’m in love with Anson County and the youth within it. They are our future and, I tell them to ‘hang in there and don’t ever give up’.”
While Caraway remains focused on serving children, she is leading the Foundation in expanding its programs to help Anson County adults, too.
Caraway was diagnosed with Stage 3 colon cancer in 2015. After a successful fight against the disease, she created the Village of STRENGTH program, which provides a support group for patients, caregivers, and, especially, survivors of chronic illnesses.
The inspiration, she said, came from a quote from the late Kay Yow, former women’s basketball coach at NC State University, which Caraway has taken as a personal motto: “When life kicks you, let it kick you forward.”
By Eric Carpenter