Friars Celebrate Contributions of Durham’s Emily K Center

Jocelyn Thomas Around the Province

VanHaight McBriar Emily K Center

Christopher VanHaight and David McBriar with Mike Krzyzewski, head basketball coach at Duke University, at the Founders’ Day gala.

DURHAM, N.C. — The Emily Krzyzewski Family Life Center celebrated its history last month with a Founders’ Day gala, commemorating both the center’s community involvement and a friar instrumental in its creation.

Close to 18 years ago, the friars of Immaculate Conception Church, led by then-pastor David McBriar, OFM, proposed a neighborhood center to Mike Krzyzewski, a parishioner and head basketball coach at nearby Duke University.

At the time, David recognized that space at the parish’s school, Immaculata, had become “a precious commodity,” according to an article by Octavio Duran, OFM, in the March 2007 issue of The Anthonian. David approached Krzyzewski with a request: “Help us build a gym that will serve not only our needs, but the needs of the whole community.”

“Though we shared our facilities at Immaculate Conception Parish, we no longer could handle all who were coming. David said. “Coach K attributes me with the idea, the concept, and the need for the center.”

Representatives from various organizations came together and, as the project was in the early stages of development, they realized that what they needed was more than a gym. After five years, through the help of many people, the center was developed, and it has served the area’s adolescents for more than eight years.

On Oct. 30, David was honored at the Founders’ Day gala for his vision and leadership. The friars continue to play an active role in the center, he said.

Roughly 80 people attended the event that comprised dinner and a presentation. It included many who were part of the center’s planning, said Immaculate Conception pastor Christopher VanHaight, OFM, a member of the EK Center’s board. He added that most of the photos displayed that evening showed David.

“The center has played an incredible role in the life of children, families and the community of Durham by meeting many of their educational, social and athletic needs,” said David. In a Franciscan Journey reflection, he wrote that the priorities of the friars are to “enable the laity, witness to peace and justice, and reach out to the alienated.”

“It was 15 years ago that the first donation to build the center was received,” said David, who was pastor from 1996 to 2002. “We called it Founders’ Day.”

“The 2014 Founders’ Day event was a celebration of our history and what we’ve grown into, a facility that serves as a resource for thousands of kids and community members,” said Adam Eigenrauch, director of the center. “Our partnership with Immaculate Conception Church and Immaculata Catholic School remains an important one to this day.”

The center, located on the church property, opened in 2006 and was named for Coach K’s mother. Its mission is to inspire students to dream big, act with character and purpose, and reach their potential as leaders in their community, according to the center’s website.

The K to College Model provides neighborhood children — many from single-parent families and low-income households — with programming designed to help them achieve in school, gain entry to college and break the cycle of poverty. In addition, the center offers counselors, multipurpose rooms and a performance stage, accessed by thousands of community members. The state-of-the-art gym includes the floor from Duke University’s 2010 NCAA basketball win.

Information about the center can be found on the Emily Krzyzewski Center Facebook page. Photos of last month’s celebration were posted with this text: “Every student success we have had since 2006 was set in motion by the vision of that initial team.”

— Jocelyn Thomas is director of communications for Holy Name Province.