Dorothy Allen- Freeman built her life on a simple principle: live selflessly, always seeking the betterment of others.
As the first African-American woman to be the executive director of a non-profit agency in North Carolina; Wake Opportunities, she did just that.
For 30 years, Allen-Freeman served as Executive Director of Wake Opportunities, guiding the non-profit agency in providing housing and resources for low-income families. Her work with Wake Opportunities was a personal labor of love, as she had once been a struggling single mother living in public housing.
Yet, even then, she was motivated by a strong Christian faith and wanted to help others.
Allen-Freeman cared deeply for people and wanted what was best for them. A one-time housekeeper, she was a strong believer in education as the path to personal economic success.
“Mom wanted to give her three children the college education she never had,” said her daughter, Barbara Allen Hinton. “She always told us we could do anything we put our mind to, even become president. But first, she expected us to excel in school.”
In 1963 Allen-Freeman began volunteering with Wake Opportunities. She was named the director in 1969. Over the course of her leadership, the following programs were implemented: a federally-funded Head Start program, a nutrition program for elderly, employment counseling, senior workshops funded by the United Way, home weatherization aide and emergency food and fuel assistance.
Constantly pursuing continuing education classes to become a better leader and manager, Allen-Freeman began guiding the agency to shift its focus toward self-help programs.
“She wanted to help people, but she also wanted to help people learn to help themselves,” Allen Hinton said.
Today, Wake Opportunities has a $5 million budget and is involved in multiple programs. It’s impact in the region reflects Allen-Freeman’s energy, boundless optimism and love for her community.
In 1990, Wake Opportunities received a federal housing grant to fund creation of a housing complex to help handicapped or low-income elderly. Christened Dorothy Nixon Allen Manor, the complex in Holly Springs, NC, continues to provide a haven for residents and is a lasting tribute to Allen-Freeman’s impact on lives and on the Wake County community.
Allen-Freeman retired from Wake Opportunities in 1997 after a total of 32 years of service. However, her mission to help others in Wake County, particularly low-income women and families, continued.
Allen-Freeman passed away Jan. 30, 2018, leaving behind an extraordinary example of service and a community better than she found it.
–by Imani Jones