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March 23, 2009

Charlotte, NC— Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation Department holds a special ceremony Friday, March 27, 2009 at 11:30am to celebrate the new name of Ivory Baker Recreation Center (formerly Oaklawn Recreation Center), 1920 Stroud Park Court.
The celebration will include remarks from Congressman Mel Watt, Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners Chairman Jenifer Roberts, Park and Recreation Commissioner Brenda McMoore and representatives of the community. The new name was chosen by the community to honor Carlenia Graham Ivory and Don Nichols Baker. Neighbors in the community petitioned Park and Recreation and Mecklenburg County for the name. Ivory and Baker are/were longtime leaders in the community:

Carlenia Graham Ivory is passionate about improving public education for all children. She led many efforts to improve education in the Double Oaks community. She organized the Saturday Enrichment Program for children, designed and implemented a tutoring/mentoring program to help youngsters with basic math and computer skills, and sponsored S.A.T.-preparation workshops. She began the “SOAP Pail” program to arrange rides to a Laundromat for parents and then to provide parenting workshops as they did their laundry. She started Double Oaks Summer Camp which serves more than 300 youngsters.  Ms. Ivory led efforts to raise more than $2.6 million to help build Oaklawn Recreation Center. She also had a distinguished career as a manager with Eastern Airlines, rising to become its manager of reservation and sales. She later worked with Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools. A mother of two sons, she was married to the late Titus L. Ivory Sr.  She won the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Keeper of the Dream Award, the Charlotte POST Community Service Award, and TIAA-CREF Leader in Learning and Liberty Award, among many recognitions.

Don Nichols Baker who died in 2003, was active in many political activities, a campaigner for quality education, decent housing and affordable healthcare. He was the campaign manager for Harvey Gantt, Charlotte’s first black mayor and field director for his races for US Senate. He managed Rep. Mel Watt’s first campaign for Congress, then served as his District Director from 1992-2003. He was a strategist and adviser for Erskine Bowles’ US Senate race in 2002, Chair of the Carolina Community Project and Chair of Minority Affairs for the NC Democratic Party. Baker was a director of the Afro-American Cultural Center, a delegate to the 2000 National Democratic Convention, and a longtime member of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Black Political Caucus. He won the 2003 Dr. Martin Luther King Medallion Award. He is also remembered as a passionate family man, survived by his wife and three children.

Oaklawn Recreation Center, dedicated in 2007, was an important landmark in the redevelopment of the Double Oaks/Fairview Homes Community. Once a concentration of poverty and crime, including one of Charlotte’s largest public housing complexes, the neighborhood has been extensively remade. It is now known as the Park at Oaklawn. At its heart is the $3.3 million, more than 22,000 sq. ft. recreation center, built by an extraordinary coalition of more than a dozen groups and agencies. The center, operated by Park and Recreation, has a gymnasium, five classrooms, computer center, meeting room, offices for various community and government agencies, plus a daycare center and Head Start program.

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