Down East Partnership starts new campaign | Feature columnist

Fall is always a new start season – the start of a new school year and the move to cooler weather.

This fall, we’re excited to announce a new campaign to support the work of the Down East Partnership for Children’s Family Resource Center. The campaign will start on Monday with a message from our campaign chairman Steve Felton and the new chairman of the board, Stacy Sumner Jesso.

For more information, please visit our website and our social media channels for updates and announcements.

Every year DEPC starts an annual fundraiser, but this year it’s a little different. As with many organizations and companies, the need will be greater in a few years. This is one of those years. It’s time to give back to the building that has supported and cared for so many of our families in Nash and Edgecombe Counties over the years.

Not so long ago, before the COVID restrictions, every year, as part of the partnership, thousands of families visited our Family Resource Center at 215 Lexington St. in downtown Rocky Mount, and more visited Discovery Park. In 2019 more than 6,000 people visited.

Families would bring their young children with them to connect with other families through playgroups or self-help groups. Nurses met regularly to prepare healthy meals as part of the FIT program, and teachers and childcare managers participated in training and workshops to ensure the availability of quality childcare for working parents.

Now most programs continue to meet virtually. We are grateful for the technology that enables our support to reach families while they stay at home. We have worked hard to find new families because we know there is a great need for family support services.

We look forward to the day when families can again be personally welcomed to this center of programs, services and resources. Hopefully that day will come soon. Now is the time to take care of this wonderful building that has offered so much to this community for so many years.

Did you know that DEPC’s Family Resource Center was built in 1975 and served as the YWCA for the community? It provided apartments for the elderly and young mothers. Steve Felton shared with us the fond memories of his grandmother Lula Felton, who lived on the third floor.

We are grateful for his guidance and time to build a legacy of learning for the next generation. He has made a connection with DEPC for two reasons: He cares deeply about our community and preserves its rich history of service to its citizens, and he wants to ensure that our children have the best chance of thriving in the future.

The partnership acquired the former YWCA building in 1996. Over the years, renovations and expansions continued to enable high quality services. You may remember the “Raise the Roof” campaign – a major construction project to repair the roof. A state-of-the-art children’s park now known as Discovery Park was added years later.

Now time has taken its toll on the park and the Family Resource Center. It is time we reinvested in these efforts.

This fundraising campaign will focus on the immediate needs that need to be addressed this year and will also help expand the reach of programs and services for young children and their families.

Here is an overview of the goals of this campaign:

  • Support the grade-level reading campaign and the programs and services offered each year at the Family Resource Center – Playgroups, Incredible Years, Triple P, and childcare resources and referrals.
  • Replace the flooring in the indoor playground.
  • Renovate the playground in Discovery Park.

Support health and nutrition programs offered through the partnership.

We are proud to be part of this community and proud of the many partners who have helped us on this path, especially in this time of turbulence when the need is so great. We want to continuously support our families and local businesses by providing resources for young families and connecting them with the quality care they need to work and raise their children happy, healthy and hopeful for the future.

We will remain open to business during this campaign. We hope you will join us in this endeavor. As Steve always tells us … “It’s time to put on our playing faces and do this for the kids. Continue to play.”

Thank you for everything you do every day to improve our children’s lives. You are really at the heart of our work.

Henrietta Zalkind is the managing director of the Down East Partnership for Children.

About Ellen Lewandowski

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