The concept of the CARE Center (formerly NET Center) came about from discussions at a morning coffee club which consisted of the executive director of CRC Nancy Johnson, executive director of the Topeka Rescue Mission, Barry Feaker, former Director of Safe Streets, Sally Zellers and Terry Hund, of the Topeka Rescue Mission. This core group, having read the book Toxic Charity, expanded on its concepts with ongoing philosophical discussions on how to impact generational poverty in a new way in hopes of finding a solution to the increasing numbers of people living in poverty, because what society had been doing for the last 40 years was not working.
To break the learned behavior of living off of entitlements being the only long term example in which children living in poverty would observe with their parents using food stamp, living in subsidized HUD housing, picking up clothes from clothing banks and food from various community food pantries, and etc., had become the only way of life they knew.
It takes a concerted step by step effort to change this improvised mind set when that’s all you know. By having these discussions over a couple of years, ultimately developing a pilot program the core group was looking to put their discussions into practice. As they reached this conclusion, along came USD 501Topeka School Board and Dr. Julie Ford with a brick and mortar opportunity to launch such a pilot program. The 501 board didn’t want the former Avondale East elementary school building to turn into another community center. The Board understood this building was the anchor for the 750 homes in the Hi-Crest West neighborhood, one of Topeka’s most critical need neighborhoods, they wanted something more robust and substantial with programing and assistance to start the wind of change in this blighted community.
CRC’s board of directors took a leap of faith in entering into a long term agreement with 501 to take on the management of Avondale East Elementary school and repurpose the building into a neighborhood learning center. Partnering with the Topeka Rescue Mission, the monumental process of transforming the neighborhood began. CRC immediately set about bringing the building up to 21st century business specs, installing phones, internet and Wi-Fi that is HIPPA compliant. Tens of thousands of dollars were invested in the building to create a business atmosphere so that other not-for-profit agencies with specialized services for the public would come to Avondale East NET Center (now CRC CARE Center at Avondale East) to help rebuild this community.
Currently, there are nine not-for-profit tenants offering various programing, education and mentoring to the residents of Hi-Crest West. There are numerous volunteers assisting the agencies representing approximately 20 churches from all over our community.