BNDC was established in 2001 by a cross-section of people from churches, businesses, and neighborhoods throughout Brevard County, and focused its attention on the Booker T. Washington neighborhood in north Melbourne – a neighborhood plagued by drugs and crime, poverty, blight, and hopelessness.
One of the resident leaders was Irene Summerford, who had a passion to help the children of the neighborhood. Under her guidance and vision, the Dorcas Outreach Center for Children (DOCK) was established as a safe haven from the often dangerous streets, operating out of a public housing apartment. By 2007, sufficient funds had been raised to build the 3500-square-foot facility that is The DOCK today. Sister Irene did not live to see the new building completed, but her spirit continues to be a guiding source of light.
Across the street from the DOCK was an area known as “the Bottoms” – notorious for drug and criminal activity. Dilapidated housing owned by absentee landlords was a source of blight. The City of Melbourne targeted the area for improvements and asked nonprofit organizations for ideas on how to restore the blighted community. BNDC proposed a dramatic project – transforming the Bottoms into a safer, pleasant and affordable place for families and seniors to live.
With strong municipal backing, BNDC was able to leverage private sector support for the project. After acquiring the properties and tearing down the asbestos-laden buildings, the 18-unit Greater Heights Apartments were built in 2009, and the old street where they stand was renamed Irene Summerford Way.
BNDC has recently partnered with the Powell Subdivision Neighborhood Watch, Congregations for Community Action and the City of Palm Bay to revitalize a corner grocery in Northeast Palm Bay that had fallen prey to crime and blight. That building has been demolished and the site cleared for the new Evans Center, which will house a community market, job training classrooms and health clinic.
BNDC continues to seek opportunities to work in partnership with neighborhood leaders to transform struggling communities into oases of hope and opportunity.