Diversity Nurtures Achievement Community Youth Center in Duplin County provides after-school care for children ages 5-17 and structured learning for students struggling in a traditional setting. In March of 2020, the students left for spring break and didn’t come back.
The need to support the community’s youth didn’t go away as the COVID-19 pandemic began, says Earlean McKiver Rivers, the executive director of the center, located in Warsaw. Working with the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina, DNA began providing 100 meals per day out of the center. Her board and volunteers agreed they needed to do what they could for the community.
“We bagged the meals and placed them in the trunk of cars,” Rivers said. “The kids still had to eat.”
In June, the center safely reopened to children for camp with a focus on following CDC guidelines to reduce COVID-19 transmission and staying outside as much as possible. DNA also had to figure out how to pay for additional staff as they moved from providing largely part-time services to a full-time schedule.
After a successful summer camp, DNA saw a need to provide an environment where children could safely participate in virtual schooling. For the 2020-21 school year, they served 40 students from kindergarten through high school. DNA scrambled to provide lunches, school supplies, electronic devices and the internet service needed to support virtual learning as well as hire staff.
In January 2021, the center received a $40,000 grant to support their efforts from the North Carolina Healing Communities Fund. Launched by the North Carolina Community Foundation, the fund has distributed $4.25 million to provide critical resources for nonprofit organizations in North Carolina.
“When COVID first hit, we didn’t have the slightest idea of where we were going and what we were doing,” Rivers said. “The grant gave me a sense of relief. It gave me light at the end of the tunnel, and I went in blinded.”
The help came at the right time. Without the funding, Rivers said she would have gotten a personal loan to support the community’s children.
“Quitting wasn’t an option,” she said. “I would have gone into debt to provide the service. I was going to step out on faith. When we got the call - that you all believed in DNA enough to provide this – that spoke volumes.”
Even better, Rivers says, is that all students who participated in DNA’s virtual learning program were successful during their academic year.