Work has started on a 13,000-square-foot extension of an East Paulding Road church, a place where pregnant women can seek prenatal care and people can get help finding jobs and learning to build wealth.
It will be a place where adults can take classes in finance management and where children can participate in athletic programs.
It will be called The Impact Center, a $3.5 million development connected to New Covenant Worship Center.
The Impact Center, 3420 E. Paulding Road, was developed with the needs of southeast Fort Wayne in mind, New Covenant officials say. Pastors Luther Whitfield and Mick Baker say the quadrant is the city's most neglected in terms of having services to meet the diverse needs of the community.
The $3.5 million will cover building expenses necessary for the facility expansion and money to provide ongoing programs and services will come from sustainable donors.
Whitfield and Baker said they hope to move beyond issues such as high infant mortality and crime that are often associated with the southeast side and focus more on positives.
Mayor Tom Henry thinks The Impact Center will help.
“We are fortunate to live in a community that values people. By providing a variety of needed services, The Impact Center will reach individuals and families by teaching new skills and making sure there is help and support during a challenging time,” Henry said in an emailed statement.
Baker refers to the southeast quadrant as a “melting pot” with a diverse variety of culture and language. The free services will be designed with diversity in mind.
One priority is offering English language courses. Other free services include mental health counseling, child-care services, a sports academy, financial literacy, diversity training, a café area, job placement assistance, and a restoration program for those who have been incarcerated.
Baker believes the extensive list of services will function almost like a “mall” for people with varied needs.
When Julie Vielma, first-time mom and Fort Wayne resident, decided she needed to find a daytime child care option, finding caretakers with strong character was her priority.
Being a new parent, she faced the normal anxieties of parting with her son while he was still an infant. She had been familiar with the child care services New Covenant Worship Center was offering through its current program, Covenant Christian Academy day care and preschool.
She was relieved to find they were accepting children her son's age when many other surrounding services were not.
Vielma became familiar with the leaders of New Covenant, who eased her fears about leaving Grayson under their staff's care.
“They're teaching him all the basics for those eight hours,” Vielma said. “I know them and I trust their judgment.”
Vielma described the transformation of Grayson at first crying every time she left the room to comfortably laughing and playing today.
With the extended space of the addition of The Impact Center, the New Covenant pastors hope to help many more families.
Baker calls it offering a “hand-up” to those who are down.
Whitfield said healthy communities start with healthy families.
“We really want to make this a gathering place, a safe place, a place of empowerment that can join us in the endeavor of transforming the community,” Whitfield said.
The ministry intends to continue building partnerships with other nearby programs. New Covenant leaders say the center will not be sustainable on its own, but needs like-minded people to support initiatives to make the center viable.
Baker said other organizations, including Parkview Health, have contributed to funding.
Henry likes the collaboration.
“It's great to see so many organizations come together to ensure Fort Wayne continues to be a welcoming and caring city,” he said.