News

Melbourne program keeps children in school and off the streets

Maria Sonnenberg, For FLORIDA TODAY

Published 3:19 p.m. ET Oct. 12, 2017

As an 8-year-old, Jarrad Baker was a regular at the DOCK, the faith-based after-school safe haven operated by Brevard Neighborhood Development Coalition in Melbourne’s Booker T. Washington Neighborhood, one of the poorest areas in the county.

His mom registered him for the free program because he was struggling in school. Mom knew best, and with the help of volunteer mentors, Jarrad improved his schoolwork.

Jarrad continued at the DOCK until he turned 13. At that time, the DOCK was aimed at elementary school children, so Jarrad drifted away, drawn towards friends who hung out on the streets. He readily admits he was getting involved in negative activities, doing poorly in school, threatening his promising football career and hurting his mom. At 15, the young man decided to turn his life around, thanks in part to DOCK director Trevor Howard, who suggested Jarrad return to the DOCK and volunteer to assist the younger students.

“The Jesus and Me program caught my eye, and I got involved in helping the younger kids with their homework,” he said. The young man with the infectious smile has since become a grassroots ambassador for the DOCK, recruiting several of his friends.

By helping others, Jarrad also helped himself, turning his grades around from a 2.0 GPA to a 3.6. He hopes to play college football and has plans to become a physical therapist after college.

By the end of the year, Jarrad and his DOCK pals will have a teen center to call their own. The new building, adjacent to the original DOCK, will serve the program’s exploding teen population generated by Howard’s targeted efforts, which spiked the DOCK’s teen population from nine students to more than 50 in just a year.

“This was wonderful, especially since it was bringing teens off the streets at a highly susceptible age, but it resulted in forcing a periodic awaiting list,” said Lynn Brockwell-Carey, BNDC’s executive director.

“At times, we have not been able to accommodate all of the youth who wanted to attend the DOCK.”

Juggling the elementary school and teen programs has been difficult in the original 3,500-square-foot DOCK building, but the situation will change when the new building, made possible by donations and in-kind services, opens in November.

“The teens are ecstatic for a place of their own,” said Brockwell-Carey.

The space will provide opportunities for the teens to sharpen the critical skills and knowledge they will need to succeed. They will be able to participate in Kaplan ACT prep courses made possible through the Balda Family Foundation, take workshops on application and resume preparation and job interview readiness. Some of these sessions and regular academic tutoring will be led by the Black Heritage Council, a group of volunteers from Patrick Air Force Base.

Of course, there will be plenty of fun magnets, too, with a music studio, a pool table, computers and dance classes offered courtesy of Dance Arts Centre.

To raise additional money for the program, BNDC is hosting Carnival at the Creek, an adults-only fair on Sunday, Oct. 22, at picturesque Up the Creek Farms in Valkaria. The organization hopes to raise $70,000 with this upscale version of all the favorite carnival foods and vintage carnival games with not-your-usual carnival prizes, such as restaurant gift certificates and collector wines.

The Blue Cypress Bluegrass Band, luxe carnival fare, small-batch whiskey tasting, specialty cocktails and a drawing for a seven-night Royal Caribbean cruise from any Florida port round out the evening.

In addition to the DOCK, the primarily volunteer-based BNDC operates Greater Heights, an affordable apartment community for low-income working families and the elderly of the Booker T. Washington Neighborhood, and Evans Center, a multi-use project that will serve the residents of the Powell Subdivision of Northeast Palm Bay and Southeast Melbourne with a fresh food market, a Brevard Health Alliance clinic and youth job training. 

“BNDC is changing lives,” said board treasurer Becky Cavallucci.

“We see children who plan to complete their education, instead of becoming part of the drug culture,” she said. “We see families living in safe, affordable housing, which allows them to work and to see a brighter future for their children. We are excited to see how lives will change as we work with people in the Powell subdivision to provide a grocery store in their food desert.” 

Carnival at the Creek

What: A fundraiser for the Brevard Neighborhood Development Coalition

When: 4 to 8 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 22

Where: Up the Creek Farms, 3590 Valkaria Road, Valkaria

Tickets: $150 per guest. Sponsorships start at $500. Raffle tickets for the cruise are $25 each or five for $100.

Info: bndcserve.org/carnival

Work set to begin on teen center

RICK NEALE , FLORIDA TODAY
March 13, 2017

MELBOURNE — When the Dorcas Outreach Center for Kids debuted on Masterson Street in 2007, boys as young as 8 in the crime-plagued Booker T. Washington neighborhood were tempted to seek fortunes by trafficking illegal drugs on the streets, Executive Director Lynn Brockwell-Carey said.

The Christian-based community center has served as a safe haven for neighborhood youth the past decade — and growing demand has generated a space crunch and occasional wait lists. So, by the upcoming school year, officials hope to open a second 3,800square-foot facility geared for teens right next door.

Last week, a groundbreaking ceremony occurred for the $650,000 teen center, which will feature a music room, dance room, lounge and computer room. Construction should kick off in a couple of weeks.

“Within 30 to 40 years from now, the teens that we serve here — the kids that we serve here — are going to be in a place of leadership. They may be the next mayor. They may be the next city councilwoman,” Trevor Howard, DOCK director, told the assembled crowd. “They may be the next principal. They may be the next judge, the next police officer. Maybe even the next DOCK director,” Howard said.

The DOCK offers after-school and summer programs for youths ages 5 to 18. Operated by the nonprofit Brevard Neighborhood Development Coalition, the organization offers homework tutoring and teaches kids how to act like gentlemen and ladies.

Daily attendance typically ranges from 40 to 50 kids, bolstered by relationships with Creel Elementary and Eau Gallie High officials. Maximum capacity is 60, including staff and volunteers. Capacity will double to 120 when the teen center opens.

“We’ve grown from nine teens (in May 2015) to 35 at this point that come through our doors on a weekly basis. They’re coming into this center here that’s really designed more for little kids. Once we have a teen-appropriate center, we expect that it’s going to boom with teenagers. And we need to be ready for that financially,” Brockwell-Carey said.

An anonymous donor gave the coalition money to expand in December 2015, and the group bought the 0.6acre teen center site last March for $25,000. The organization launched a fundraising campaign — and Fred Sutton, co-founder of Sutton Properties, accelerated construction by a year by donating $100,000, Brockwell-Carey said.

“Our country, politically, is divided — at least from what I see on TV. This project is an example, though, of our country politically coming together,” Sutton told the groundbreaking audience.

Brockwell-Carey said the coalition has raised about $450,000 thus far. Sutton said anyone who donates the remaining $200,000 will receive naming rights to the teen center building.

Police incident reports in the Booker T. Washington neighborhood have fallen from about 700 in 2002 to roughly 200 last year. Brockwell-Carey attributed that crime drop to the coalition’s acquisition of the notorious Kennedy Street Apartments — known as “The Bottoms” — which attracted illicit activity directly across Masterson Street from the DOCK and teen center sites.

The coalition opened the 18-unit affordable-housing Greater Heights Apartments there in 2009.

Ninety-five percent of DOCK youth come from households with annual incomes of less than $25,000, the coalition reports.

“Isaiah, the prophet from the Old Testament, reminds us that if we treat our neighbors with kindness and with justice, that God will raise up the foundations of future generations. We will be called the repairer of the breach, the restorers of streets to dwell in. Amen,” Brockwell-Carey said during the groundbreaking, quoting Isaiah 58:12. “That scripture has inspired the Brevard Neighborhood Development Coalition’s leaders for many years, from the very, very beginning.”

Contact Neale at 321-242-3638, rneale@floridatoday. com or follow @RickNeale1 on Twitter.

Group uses faith, spiritual mentoring to revitalize neighborhoods

J.D. Gallop, FLORIDA TODAY   3:48 p.m. EDT May 12, 2016

There was a song of thanks and accolades for ministers, civic leaders and residents joining efforts to overcome the stranglehold of poverty and crime to transform their communities into places of hope.

Now the Brevard Neighborhood Development Coalition, a faith-based organization, is readying to do the same thing with plans to build the 6,000-square-foot Evans Center, Inc. grocery store and community center with a wellness facility to help revitalize the northwest Palm Bay subdivision. The group is also funded by the United Way of Brevard in addition to other donors.

“It’s a wonderful economic development asset,” said Lynda Weatherman, president and CEO of the Economic Development Commission for the Space Coalition, speaking before the group’s 10th Annual Anchor Breakfast at the Hilton Melbourne Rialto.

The Evans Center remains in the development phase pending talks between the project’s board and the city of Palm Bay, which owns the land and previously agreed to the project.

This Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., volunteers are holding a Farmers & Flea Market at the Evans Center site, 1361 Florida Ave., for residents. The market is held every second Saturday.

“It has everything, it will enhance the neighborhood and give the community a real sense of place,” Weatherman said, adding that the Evans Center could also bolster property values and provide other forms of economic enhancements for the neighborhood.

The breakfast brought together at least 300 people, including ministers, business leaders, volunteers and students with the goal of raising awareness about ongoing community efforts to take back the streets and give residents a sense of renewal with their projects.

In the past, the coalition turned its focus on the Booker T. Washington neighborhood in north Melbourne. Before, the neighborhood was stricken by shootings and other crime; residents, already mired in poverty, talked of change.

By 2009, the coalition opened an 18-unit complex for low income families, combining the restoration with spiritual mentoring and outreach.

There is also the Dorcas Outreach Center for Kids, also known as the DOCK, a 3,500 square-foot learning center in the same neighborhood which provides activities and biblical training for area youth.

The DOCK was just the kind of boost that fourth-grader Raffinellys Colon said she needed as she spoke to the audience.

“The DOCK is a place where kids go to learn. It teaches them about God and how to be a better person,” she said, telling the listening audience that she wants to be either a hairstylist or singer when she grows up.

Trevor Howard, the director of the DOCK, praised the BNDC’s benefactors and volunteers for their dedication.

“There’s a lot of love and support for what we’re doing,” Howard said.

James Bartell, president of the board that oversees the Evans Center project, said the BNDC’s vision of enhancing the livelihood of residents remains the main goal. The south Melbourne, northwest Palm Bay neighborhood is one In which the majority of residents do not own a car and that the nearest grocery store is over 1.4 miles away. Bartell also said the hope is that groundbreaking will take place on the multi-use center in the months ahead.

“The Evans Center will have fruit, vegetables, fresh meat along with preventative health care and job training. This won’t be a little (convenience store),” Bartell said. “We’re still negotiating with the city but hopefully, everything will get underway soon.”

Anchor Breakfast will honor DOCK’s departing director

Maria Sonnenberg, For FLORIDA TODAY 10 a.m. EDT May 6, 2015

People in need often live in neighborhoods in need. A case in point is the Booker T. Washington neighborhood, one of Melbourne’s poorest communities, and for a long time a dangerous place for kids.

Drug dealers were all too visible in this primarily African-American enclave near Eau Gallie and street crime was part of the daily routine for both young and old. Abandoned, blighted properties were common. Here, a dilapidated apartment complex was nicknamed “The Bottoms” because it was the go-to place for those seeking drugs.

Little by little, however, the community has changed for the better, thanks to resident leaders who stood their ground against those who would destroy the streets they loved. Helping them with their goal for a better, safer place in which to live are organizations such as Habitat for Humanity and the Brevard Neighborhood Development Center, or BNDC. The latter has embedded itself in the community with projects such as the razing of The Bottoms to make way for Greater Heights, an 18-unit complex of colorful, Key West-style apartments that are affordable for the working poor and the elderly.

BNDC also operates the Dorcas Outreach Center for Kids, aka The DOCK, an after-school haven where kids from kindergarten through high school can find adults eager to help them with everything from homework to issues at home. Up to 50 kids stream into the DOCK every day after school. Here they find a structured, nurturing environment where they can receive help with their homework, get healthy snacks, do arts and crafts and play in a safe environment. Positive choices affecting health, behavior and attitude are modeled by the staff and volunteers. The DOCK is more than the kids, too, for it is also a gathering place for the entire community.

DOCK grandmom Theressa Miller, president of the DOCK Parent Booster Club, grew up in the neighborhood and has seen the changes for the better.

“It is much safer now,” she said. “We don’t have to worry about our kids getting hurt.” BNDC has been an important component in the revitalization of Miller’s neighborhood.

“BNDC continues to be a vibrant and critical part of the social fabric of the Booker T. Washington neighborhood,” said the United Way member agency’s executive director, Lynn Brockwell-Carey.

The faith-based nonprofit, named FLORIDA TODAY’s Organization of the Year in 2009, has accomplished much. Last year, 99 children and teens were part of the DOCK family and 23 families found their home at Greater Heights.

“Many of these families have been living at Greater Heights for multiple years, pointing to the dignity parents have when they can afford the rent and the stability this provides for their children,” Brockwell-Carey said.

The agency’s tiny group of staff and large number of volunteers invite the community to join them in celebrating the children of The DOCK and the families of Greater Heights during the organization’s annual Anchor Breakfast at 8 a.m. on Friday, May 8, at the Melbourne Hilton Rialto, 200 Rialto Place, Melbourne.

Guest speaker for the breakfast is Chaplain Norris Burkes, author of “No Small Miracles” and a syndicated FLORIDA TODAY writer whose columns on everyday life are featured in approximately 50 newspapers across the nation.

Part of the event will honor Botavia Jackson, the DOCK’s beloved director for 10 years.

“The DOCK is 11 years old, and she has been here for 10 years of that,” Brockwell-Carey said.

Board president Kathy Cobb noted that Jackson’s “love and leadership helped shape the lives of so many children who walked the halls of the DOCK. Her impact on their lives will be seen for years to come as these children grow up to become productive godly adults.”

Botavia Jackson has been the director at the DOCK for 10 years. Jackson, who is leaving to pursue other interests, will pass the torch of DOCK leadership to Trevor Howard, who reports to work May 11. A former teacher at alma mater Palm Bay High School, Howard has worked for the Boys and Girls Club of Central Florida and at Gee Resolutions, where he served as a life coach, encouraging teens to understand and reject at-risk behaviors.

Howard will jump right into the DOCK’s busy summer program, which operates day-long activities designed to keep the approximately 60 participating youngsters from sliding in their academics during school vacation.

Brevard Neighborhood Development Coalition has also expanded beyond the boundaries of the Booker T. Washington neighborhood into Northeast Palm Bay with Evans Center, a partnership with the Powell Subdivision Neighborhood Watch, Congregations for Community Action and the City of Palm Bay.

Evans Supermarket, once a thriving grocery and community gathering place, declined after being sold to non-resident owners. The City of Palm Bay acquired the property and demolished the derelict, asbestos-ridden structure to make way for a new facility.

Fundraising for the project is on-going. When completed, the facility will become a tight-knit community’s center for healthy living and job training, with a neighborhood market in an area of Melbourne where many of the residents do not own a car and must walk several miles to buy groceries. Evans Center will also offer on-the-job training for teens and a Brevard Health Alliance clinic on site.

The public is invited to learn more about BNDC over breakfast May 8.

“I anticipate that this year’s breakfast will be a great testimony to the impact that comes from investing long-term in the lives of children and in the life of a community,” Brockwell-Carey said.

Individual tickets for BNDC’s Anchor Breakfast are $50. Sponsorship opportunities range from $500 to $5,000.

For more information, call 321-253-6588 or visit BNDCserve.org.

Update: More than 200 people attended the Anchor Breakfast, raising over $40,000 for BNDC.

 

 

Lynn Brockwell-Carey Receives Bridge Builder Award

Feb. 1, 2015  FLORIDA TODAY

Maria SonnenbergBinoLynn

When Florida Tech recently awarded Lynn Brockwell-Carey the Reverend Harvey L. Riley Bridge Builder Award for community activism and improvement, it was a kudos well deserved for the executive director of the Brevard Neighborhood Development Coalition(BNDC). Brockwell-Carey’s faith-based nonprofit has been instrumental in turning the tide of the Booker T. Washington Neighborhood, South Brevard’s poorest community and an area once plagued by drugs and crime.

BNDC operates the DOCK drop-in center for the neighborhood kids and also runs Greater Heights, an affordable apartment community.

When did you first become involved with the Booker T. Washington Neighborhood?

In April 2001, I was hired by the founding board of directors of BNDC, to serve as their first executive director. “Hired” is not entirely accurate! At first, I couldn’t always depend on a paycheck. BNDC was long on vision and short on money in the early days.

My husband, Michael Carey, who is senior pastor at Trinity Wellsprings Church, and I felt that God was calling me to BNDC and that our family should make a financial sacrifice to help BNDC launch.

BNDC is a non-profit, faith-based community development corporation, aimed at revitalizing struggling neighborhoods. BNDC is a critical catalyst, bringing residents together with business, church, and municipal leaders to plan and implement community projects.

How did BNDC evolve?

The founding board members were business and community leaders who embraced the principals of Christian community development. In cases of emergency, charitable handouts are necessary, but the principles of Christian community development touted by civil rights leader and Pastor Dr. John Perkins are aimed at holistic restoration. We believe that God wants to us to be restored from our brokenness, whether that is our broken relationship with God, with individuals, or even within our communities.

There were insightful leaders in the city of Melbourne’s Housing and Community Development Dept. After Diane Key organized the BTW Neighborhood Association, the city of Melbourne boosted her efforts. The resulting Redevelopment Plan provided a roadmap for future improvements and guidance for partners such as BNDC.

Tell us about Sister Irene Summerford and her impact on the community.

One of the residents we met during a home renovation was Sister Irene Summerford. She was conducting a sidewalk Sunday school in the neighborhood, but Irene had a much bigger dream for a permanent safe haven for children. The friendship and partnership we forged resulted in The DOCK, the Dorcas Outreach Center for Kids.

Was Sister Irene your mentor?

Most definitely! Irene was one of the most devoted Christ-followers I have ever met. Trusting in God’s love and God’s desire for justice, Irene was empowered to cast a big vision for her community. She told me, “Hope is the one thing that no one can ever take from you.”

How was the initial reception to a white person helping in a predominantly black neighborhood?

Understandably there was hesitancy and some skepticism at first.

One of the first things I did was to make contact with every pastor in the neighborhood. It says in the Bible that sometimes we need to “speak the truth in love” to others. One pastor did that with me. He said that I looked a lot like many others who had come to the community in the past. When the going got tough, those same people had left. He reminded me that community development is a long-term endeavor.

The most important thing for any community developer, regardless of race or context, is to approach others in a spirit of humility and with an eagerness to affirm the assets that the community already brings to the table. In most cases, people will then see your genuine “heart” and will welcome you to walk alongside them.

What has been the organization’s greatest accomplishments?

Revitalization of the Greater Heights block! This includes construction of the DOCK in 2007 and Greater Heights apartments in 2009. Forty children and teens stream through the DOCK doors every day, where they receive safe haven, academic help and many life enrichment opportunities. BNDC’s Greater Heights Apartments across the street replaced dilapidated housing with pleasant, affordable housing for 18 working poor and elderly families.

BNDC seeded in good neighbors on this block and the crime rate has plummeted. On the very land where drug dealers and prostitutes used to hang out, children now ride their bikes and play tag! One of my greatest joys is to watch the children playing on that street.

What challenges remain?

While great strides have been made, there are still pockets of criminal activity. This continues to be addressed through vigilance and a good working relationship between the Melbourne police, the BTW neighborhood association, and community partners such as BNDC, PAL, and Habitat for Humanity.

I see two challenges that are bigger than crime. So many families face of living in poverty and the cyclical nature of poverty that results from lack of opportunity. The average BTW household income is $21,980 compared to the Brevard County average of $49,099 (U.S. Census 2010). Secondly, too few residents participate in the neighborhood association. Strong, positive civic engagement is critical for communities to be healthy.

What is ahead for BNDC?

We are very excited to be the managing partner for Evans Center, a public-private effort aimed at improving accessibility to health care, jobs, and healthy food in the Powell/Driskell Heights communities along Florida Avenue, in Southeastern Melbourne and Northeastern Palm Bay.

Evans Center will boost economic development in Palm Bay’s enterprise zone and the Bayfront Community Redevelopment Area.  Evans Center will bring an additional health clinic to Brevard and will also have a market in this low-moderate income area, deemed by the USDA to be a “food desert” because of lack of access to healthy, fresh foods.   Of course, opening this clinic and market will also bring new jobs to our area.  We are particularly excited about on-the-job training opportunities for teens who work in the market.

 

 

 

Bob Stover: Outreach center enriches young lives

Coalition steps up, all in name of securing brighter future for kids

May 27, 2013  FLORIDA TODAY

Brevard County is making it hard for me to live up to the stereotype of the cynical newspaper editor.

Lord knows, I still harbor some ambitions in that area. A few politicians and dastardly characters do their part to keep the idea alive that nobody does a good deed without expecting something in return.

But here in Brevard, I also am in frequent contact with the United Way and the Community Foundation of Brevard, and the charitable groups they serve.

I admit to melting in their presence.

Good people, doing good work for others and their community. And what do they ask for in return? More support to do more good? That’s not selfish.

My cynic’s armor is particularly susceptible to being pierced in late spring when I attend the annual Anchor Breakfast, sponsored by the Brevard Neighborhood Development Coalition.

The Coalition was founded in 2001 and has become one of the most effective organizations to combine the commitment of faith-based groups with resources from local government and private business for the good of the community.

Its signature effort is the Dorcas Outreach Center for Kids — also known as the DOCK — in Melbourne’s Booker T. Washington neighborhood, which has a long history of crime and poverty. The DOCK provides food, academic support and positive reinforcement to about 50 children a day.

The Coalition also has built an apartment community in the neighborhood to help transform the area. And it is building the Evans Center in northeast Palm Bay as part of a public-private partnership to provide a viable community center for another neighborhood with a history of crime and poverty.

During the past decade, FLORIDA TODAY has documented the challenges in those areas and the Coalition’s successes in confronting them. The Coalition was named our Volunteer Organization of the Year in 2009.

Reflecting on a mission

The Anchor Breakfast fundraising event, which started in 2006, has a blend of components that make it a true reflection of the organization’s mission.

First, the clients take starring roles. Many of the 5- to 14-year-old kids who are being served by the Coalition’s programs are featured on the program as speakers, musicians or greeters. When we entered the banquet room Thursday morning, half a dozen smiling kids stood at the door shaking hands and thanking attendees.

Then, just before the program began, a group of young drummers woke up the room with a loud, musical drum beat. Later in the program they performed another musical piece to loud applause. The drum group, named the Roots of Rhythm, included Dorcas students Tyliyah Bursey, Tatyanna Stanley, Jakera Dolphus and Andrea Thomas, and their instructor, Sharan Miller.

Once the crowd was awake, 7-year-old Briyonna Wright, a sprout-sized, spunky bundle of atoms, bolted to the microphone. She told the story of Dorcas, the woman disciple for whom the DOCK was named. She was a charity worker and was featured in the Book of Acts. Dorcas would have been very proud to have Briyonna as her biographer.

Adults play a key role in this event each year, too. They convey the motivations for the good work and display the passion and commitment that keep it going.

Steven Johnson, the president and CEO of Health First, was the keynote speaker Thursday. He related three touchstones that ground him, and which he said are also at the core of the Coalition and similar organizations. Those are faith, humanity and community. He said these have interlocking impact on one another.

He gave descriptive examples from places like Detroit, St. Louis and Memphis, where communities have eroded, one person at a time. They have to be built back the same way — one person at a time — and that’s the way the Coalition is doing it in some of our most frayed neighborhoods.

Insider’s view

Botavia Jackson, director of the DOCK, talked about the staff’s interactions with the children and the love that the staff and volunteers try to lavish on each of them. From an insider’s view, she described how the interaction works and she drew sharp contrasts between the worlds the DOCK intervenes in and the better world it helps the kids create.

Another staffer reinforced this for me later in an email exchange when I asked to confirm what I thought was the symbolism of calling this gathering the “Anchor” breakfast.

She wrote: “The idea is that people who contribute are ‘anchors’ for the program and the work being done with the kids. Without the anchor, the ship would float away.”

That’s an eloquent description, echoing the eloquent messages Johnson and Jackson delivered so passionately.

Thursday’s audience — composed of people from a variety of business backgrounds, law enforcement, government and faith-based groups — responded with its own show of passion. They gave three or four standing ovations to the youth and adult speakers.

During the last ovation, I looked around the room.

Couldn’t spot find a cynic anywhere.