What: Grand opening of D Street House
Where: 441 D St., Davis
When: 3-6 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 13; a reception will follow in the Davis Community Church Fellowship Hall, 421 D St., beginning at 6 p.m.
Info: Call 530-406-7221
The house at 441 D St. has served many purposes over the years, from a caretaker’s cottage to a place where the homeless of Davis found shelter and services.
Last summer, the house at Fifth and D streets — on the northeast corner of the Davis Community Church campus — even served as temporary housing for battered women as the shelter run by the Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Center was being renovated.
Next week, the 1,200-square-foot D Street House takes on a new purpose: serving the families of Davis.
Thanks to a joint operation by the church and the Woodland-based Center for Families (formerly known as the Yolo Family Resource Center), Davis families will have a place where they can go for everything from parenting support and educational groups to health insurance enrollments, child development screenings, infant/toddler play groups, referrals, case management and counseling.
Davis Community Church is not only providing the space rent-free, but also providing volunteer support for the many programs and services D Street House will offer.
The Center for Families has opened at two other sites in Davis in recent years — Montgomery Elementary School and Harper Junior High School — but those centers were limited to the families of children attending those schools, noted Bob Ekstrom, executive director of the Center for Families.
“When this location came up, it was perfect,” Ekstrom said. “In spite of Davis having a lot of resources, there just wasn’t a place for families. … We needed a place for people to connect.”
Partnering with Ekstrom’s agency also fit perfectly with the church’s goals, said DCC volunteer Jennifer Anderson Begun.
“We wanted to find a new use for the house,” Begun said, “something aligned with our mission, that would assist all Davis families. This was an amazing collaborative opportunity.
“We really hope that DCC comes to really own this as an outreach ministry,” she added.
One thing is clear at all of the Centers for Families that have opened throughout Yolo County — in places like Knights Landing, Woodland and Davis — the people who come for services largely end up determining the programs and services being offered, and many are trained to begin providing those services to the people who come after them.
For example, at Woodland’s center, Ekstrom said, some 14 people who started as clients have now been trained as health educators by Woodland Healthcare and will be available at D Street House to help with health screenings, nutrition advice and more.
Women’s groups that formed in Knights Landing, Woodland and especially at the Montgomery center have worked to bring in everything from health care (in Knights Landing) to Zumba classes and sewing groups.
The center at Montgomery has ended up changing the whole feel of the school, Ekstrom said, with more Latino families than ever joining and participating in the PTA, in addition to operating numerous programs at the Center for Families.
“They’re running that center now,” Ekstrom said.
But professional services also will be available on a regular basis at D Street House. Among them will be mental health services provided by the Yolo Family Service Agency; child development assessments and referrals by Davis physician Dr. Stephen Nowicki; and legal aid from Legal Services of Northern California.
Ekstrom said the center not only will take advantage of community volunteers but also will have the services of UC Davis students on work-study, who can provide everything from computer training to child care.
“We discovered the families at Harper and Montgomery really wanted to learn computer skills,” Ekstrom said.
To that end, the D Street House has a fully stocked computer area where clients can do just that.
Right beside it is a colorful children’s room where parents using the center can leave their children to play. Davis Girl Scout Grace Richey has been busy preparing the children’s room, collecting furniture, toys, books, games and more as part of her Gold Award project.
In addition to being used for child care, the room also will house play group classes for children up to age 5, Ekstrom said.
In teaming up with the Center for Families, Davis Community Church committed to four or five service projects every year, Begun said. First up will be a collaboration on the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program, also known as VITA.
The Center for Families is the lead agency for VITA in Yolo County, Ekstrom said, and last year the agency helped deliver $1.8 million in tax refunds to Yolo County families. That money, he noted, not only helped many low-income families, it also helped the local economy, where the bulk of that money ended up being spent.
The center also will assist on a regular basis with enrollment in the Affordable Care Act, CalFresh, Medi-Cal and more.
Ekstrom said the D Street House likely will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays with some evening programming, particularly in the area of parent education.
On Wednesday, he and volunteers were busy preparing the house for its grand opening. The floors have long since been replaced and the walls painted, so it was mainly decorative work that still needed doing — curtains and blinds need to be hung, furniture moved in and all the final touches put in place prior to Thursday’s big day.
Ekstrom and Begun hope the house will serve as a starting point to increased collaboration between faith-based groups and agencies like the Center for Families, which provide social services.
“This might be a really great model,” noted Begun, especially at a time when many safety-net programs and services are being cut back.
Where it all goes from here will depend largely on the families who use the center and the volunteers who make things possible.
“The nice thing about Davis,” Ekstrom said, “is there is that spirit of giving.”
To learn more about D Street House and its services, as well as to volunteer, call 530-406-7221.
The Center for Families is a nonprofit agency that serves as a community services hub by providing a one-stop access point and clearinghouse of community services and health education. First 5 Yolo funds many of the centers’ programs.
— Reach Anne Ternus-Bellamy at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-747-8051. Follow her on Twitter at @ATernusBellamy.