EDCI’s growth shows with new office building

LaQuinda Butler of Glaxosmith Kline paints the new interior of East Durham Children's Initiative (EDCI) on Friday, September 16. Butler was one of the volunteers who helped revitalize EDCI's new space in Angier Avenue Baptist Church. (Staff photo by Elise Holsonback)

Inside Angier Avenue Baptist Church, Lauren Stephenson, development manager for the East Durham Children’s Initiative (EDCI), painted over the bright blue walls diligently, priming them for new colors to come.

The church now houses EDCI, which moved into the space about two months ago. The initiative, along with partner groups, works as a cradle-to-college program, involving children in programs from birth until they’re ready for college or a career, said David Reese, EDCI’s president and CEO.

EDCI grew out of its old space, Shepherd’s House Church at 107 N. Driver St. With a new building, Stephenson and staff are excited for new opportunities, but are keeping one goal in mind.

“It’s really important to us in our new building that families feel like it’s their space too,” Stephenson said.

The initiative serves families in the EDCI Zone—a 120-block, 1.2-square-mile area east of downtown Durham. In 2009, the zone had its variety of problems—low-performing schools and high rates of crime, teen pregnancy, substance abuse, child abuse and neglect, Reese said.

Reese has worked with more than 40 community partners and organizations to offer services to families.

“Our theory of change is if we can collectively come together and create this pipeline of services, we will have children who our healthy, who are ready to learn, who have engaged caregivers, [are] more academically proficient,” Reese said.

Reese said EDCI has reached about a 1,000 children, according to its latest numbers. Sixty percent of the children are actively engaged with EDCI or one of its 40-plus partners. The building represents the continued growth of the initiative.

“We anticipate that through year five, we’ll reach probably about 1,200 to 1,300 kids,” Reese said. “So, we would have added another two, three hundred kids who would have been significantly touched by EDCI-related interventions or partner-related interventions.”

While the number of children has grown, EDCI has also experienced growth in its staff. Reese said he’s proud that EDCI can hire members of the community who have skills to help these families.

Kristina Heredia, EDCI’s communications coordinator, said the space was needed not just for the larger staff, but for new programs and workshops that the old building couldn’t support.

“We’re able to offer ESL classes and childcare, workshops for families in computer literacy, all kinds of community programming,” Heredia said. “And that helps us create more of a community space than just an office space, so families can come in and interact more with the staff.”

As the numbers have grown, EDCI has expanded its programming, including a productive summer with a variety of camps. This included STEAM Summer, which educates children in science, technology, engineering, arts and math.

“We had a Lego summer camp, [and] Bell summer camp to help kids get to grade level over the summertime,” Heredia said. “All of these things are new, so we’ve been able to get vistas and volunteers and partnerships to come in and help us carry them off.”

Sharon Hernandez and Julie Garcia, both 17 years old, painted alongside Stephenson. Hernandez, a student at J.D. Clement Early College high school, volunteered with EDCI over the summer.

“I love that one of our summer volunteers came back to give her time again and bring one of her friends,” Stephenson said.

For now, EDCI occupies the third floor of the church. Stephenson said EDCI will move into the second floor after renovations. For the staff, the new building will be more than an office space—it’s a place for the community.

“This space belongs to our families. It belongs to our kids. It belongs to our community. We just happen to be doing work here,” Reese said.

EDCI will have a family painting day open to the community Oct. 1 from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. EDCI is located in Angier Avenue Baptist Church at 2101 Angier Ave. in Durham.