The Ada Jenkins Center and Davidson College

September 11, 2011

We at the Ada Jenkins Center are eternally grateful for everything that Davidson College does to support and strengthen our community.  There are countless examples of the impact of our partnership, so I’d like to share a few of those with you.

The Ada Jenkins Center in its current iteration opened in 1998 with a volunteer Executive Director and essentially no budget.  The intent was to use the building as a means to support marginalized  community members around us who were not able to receive needed services from Charlotte, NC, the closest large metropolitan city.  All of the health and human services were located in Charlotte. A person without transportation had no means of accessing those needed services because they had no way to get to them!

The Center began to fill important service gaps in our region and recognized that in many ways the method by which we could best serve was through partnerships and volunteers.  Early on the Center depended on other agencies and organizations in order to best leverage resources instead of attempting to do everything on an island.  One of those partners was and still is Davidson College.

Today, the Center has 21 programs or services, has a budget in excess of $1m with 6 full time and 20 part time staff, and truly serves as a one stop shop for those in need.  There are programs that are staffed by the center such as the Free Clinic of Our Towns or the LEARN WORKS (LW) after school program.  Other programs are operated by partners such as Crisis Assistance Ministries or United Family Services.  We offer comprehensive support to our clients, but can only do so because of volunteers such as the Davidson College students.

What was formerly the Community Service Office (now the Center of Civic Engagement) began to place students in various roles at the Center.  The ability to utilize student volunteers allowed many programs to be developed and operated in a very cost effective manner!  One of the much needed services we are able to offer is that of financial support to those about to lose their home or electricity, water etc.  The program, The Sunshine Fund, is directly linked to the insight of a Davidson student.  She submitted a grant to the Sunshine Lady in order to begin a fund to fill this specific gap.  Several years later this service has become even more important due to the challenging economic times.  The Fund is replenished on an on-going basis through donations.

The LW program serves 60 local children each year.  Last year we logged almost 10,000 volunteer hours in this program, predominately by Davidson College students.  Each year, a Davidson student serves as Coordinator for the Free Clinic of Our Towns.Many other students  fill critical roles in the clinic operations.  This summer it was a Davidson student who completely took over the role of Latino Services Coordinator recruiting other student volunteers to cover all translation or interpretation gaps that might have existed while our usual coordinator was on medical leave.  Students serve as receptionist, project managers, landscapers, painters and in almost every role that exists.  Students gain a great real world experience about life in the health and human services industry while serving our community in vital ways.

We are often asked how we could duplicate our model in another location.  Our consistent response is that some parts could be duplicated fairly easily, but in total it could not be done without the partnership with Davidson College.  We are thankful!