Bernadette J. Matthews, the executive director of the Center for Community Arts in Cape May. Friday Jan 14, 2011. (Dale Gerhard/Press of Atlantic City) Dale Gerhard

CAPE MAY - As a woman with an education, experience and money for housing, Bernadette Matthews knew she could come to Cape May to change careers, but not to start her working life.

Matthews arrived in Cape May six years ago to serve as the executive director of the Cape May Jazz Festival. She has been the executive director for the past two years of the Center for Community Arts for the past two years. From her frequent visits as a Pennsylvania resident to her life now as a Cape May resident, Matthews sees her fellow black county residents making the best of three of the issues that will determine a person's quality of life - education, employment and housing.

"The education system is trying to make sure all youth have a quality education here in Cape May County," Matthews said.

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Cape May is one of the wealthier resort communities, but possibly as a result of that, it is hard to find an affordable housing for moderate-income families in Cape May, West Cape May or Cape May Point, said Mattthews, 62.

"There is a lack of affordable housing even to supply the businesses with the workforce that it needs," Matthews said.

During the time Matthews has lived in Cape May, she believes it has become more difficult for blacks in the county with the recession and the ecoonmic slowdown playing big factors.

"They are competing with the fact that it is a seasonal workforce... They are competing with other nationalities that companies are bringing in here to work. At one point, it was the Irish kids, who came here to work. They no longer come. It was Bulgarians. Now, it is the Russians," said Matthews, who added Latinos also against compete against blacks for jobs. "Africans Americans are now competing with other nationalities for jobs in a limited time frame for employment."

Matthews spent 18 years working for IBM from the 1970s into the 1990s, out of Philadelphia. She believes Cape May County could use a great deal more private sector help.

"Microsoft, for example, they will partner in many ways. They will give money in many ways, but it is restrictive. It is limited to certain areas, pretty much having to do with technology. In some areas, they will work with some schools... There are other companies that are doing well who could follow the example of a Microsoft and really invest in America and communities. I think we would all be better off."


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