Metro

Margaret Van Duyne, at 79; teamed immigrants with mentors

Mrs. Van Duyne’s nonprofit One With One arranged job interviews and taught immigrants to be self-sufficient.
Mrs. Van Duyne’s nonprofit One With One arranged job interviews and taught immigrants to be self-sufficient.

From the basement of the Sudbury home where she was raising three children, Margaret Van Duyne created an organization that provided career services and English lessons to immigrants, and forged connections that helped them adapt to life in the United States.

Her nonprofit One With One paired volunteer guides with nearly 2,000 immigrants, or newcomers as she preferred to call them, who arrived from more than 70 countries. The organization also helped place more than 500 people in jobs.

She created the program because she believed an immigrant’s chance of successfully fitting into a new country and culture improved greatly if a friend helped. One With One’s purpose, she told the Globe in 1990, “is to further civic participation and integration by using the medium of partnership.”

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Mrs. Van Duyne, who moved to Illinois last summer, died of lung cancer on Feb. 23 in her Oak Park home. She was 79 and had lived most of her life in Sudbury and New Jersey.

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She first became interested in the immigrant experience when she took a filmmaking class in Boston and made a documentary about ethnic groups in the area, her family said.

Challenges facing immigrants were daunting, she realized, and people who already were established often were less than sympathetic to those who followed. A 1988 Globe editorial praising the success of One With One on its fifth anniversary quoted Mrs. Van Duyne as saying many Americans believe “that because my grandparents had it tough, so should the new wave of immigrants.”

Harriet Goldstein, a human resources executive who first joined the program’s staff as a volunteer, recalled early meetings on the Van Duyne family’s back porch. “We would be sitting in this beautiful backyard,” Goldstein said, “then we’d go down to the basement and work — making phone calls, recruiting volunteers.”

Those volunteers completed weekend-long training sessions, and committed to nine months with the program. Mrs. Van Duyne and her staff eventually moved to office space in Brighton, where they taught English, office skills, and interview strategies among many other topics.

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“Peg was very hands-on,” said Debra Jacobs, who also joined the organization as a volunteer, and became its program developer. “She got to know each student personally.”

One With One arranged job interviews for students, often with assistance from other area organizations, and offered advice on everything from preparing resumes to finding day-care centers. The organization achieved a 100 percent job placement rate, Goldstein said, and self-sufficiency was a central goal for immigrants.

“Beyond literacy and computer skills, everyone must receive coaching in how to work with different agencies,” Mrs. Van Duyne told the Globe in 1997.

“We have to help them understand how people have to work together,” she added. “We teach them about teamwork, help them with productivity, teach them how to analyze and not spend their time worrying, but figuring out how to solve their problems.”

Mrs. Van Duyne and her staff wrote guides on topics such as preparing for citizenship tests and making appeals to politicians on issues such as welfare reform. They also wrote classroom curricula for teachers and students on language, literacy, and job training.

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Margaret King, who was known as Peg, grew up in the Fayson Lakes section of Kinnelon, N.J., and graduated from nearby Butler High School. She received a bachelor’s degree in 1956 from Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania and later graduated with a master’s in communication from William Paterson University in Wayne, N.J.

In 1960, she married Thomas Van Duyne in the garden of her parents’ home. Until her first child was born, Mrs. Van Duyne taught fourth grade. She led fund-raising and building plans and served as trustee for the public library in Kinnelon, where the family lived until moving to Sudbury in 1972.

She took quickly to Boston and its history, and enjoyed showing visitors the city, said her daughter Melisande Van Liedekerke of Oak Park.

Her documentary “Room For All” focused on the confusion that most immigrants feel when they arrive in the United States and contend with the lack of available services. Refugees she met while making the film “were often baffled but thrilled to be here,” she told the Globe in 1987, “but my film’s audiences were not thrilled to see them, even on film. I was unprepared for the prejudice.”

That experience prompted her to launch One With One in 1983.

“We’re going to start social change by having one person work with one person,” she told the Globe in 1990. “People talk of brotherhood, scold about brotherhood, but they don’t know how to bring it about. This is how relationships begin: one with one.”

Volunteers, who were recruited by word-of-mouth or via free ads, were “having their Peace Corps and Oxfam experience here,” Mrs. Van Duyne told the Globe. The volunteers were screened and trained, but by design there were few rules for sessions with the immigrants they counseled. “They go in without a lot of information about the person or the culture so that they get to find out what they don’t know,” she said, adding: “What’s important is people come as co-equals.”

As One With One placed more than 500 people in jobs, Jacobs said, the organization “took a more holistic approach, with the understanding that people could only succeed at work if they understood American work culture.”

A service has been held for Mrs. Van Duyne, who in addition to her husband and daughter leaves two sons, Edward of Loveland, Colo., and Douglas of West Hollywood, Calif.; three brothers, Edward King of McLean, Va., Michael King of Sheffield, and Theodore King of Kinnelon, N.J.; and six grandchildren.

When Mrs. Van Duyne was not working, she enjoyed gardening, photography, and traveling with her husband to at least 22 countries. She was a voracious reader, her daughter said, and would “walk out with 10 books” when she visited a bookstore.

“She was a wife and mother, and she loved those roles,” Goldstein said. “She and Tom had an unbelievable marriage, but she was absolutely an independent person in her own right, and the work she did was just amazing.”

Mrs. Van Duyne “had unbelievable energy,” said Goldstein, who added that she was “incredibly smart and committed to her work. She was able to multitask like nobody’s business. I don’t know how she managed to do everything she did in a 24-hour day.”

Kathleen McKenna can be reached at kmck66@ verizon.net.