After reading Paul Tough’s book Whatever It Takes, Durham community leaders Wanda Boone, Minnie Forte-Brown, Barker French, and Ellen Reckhow began envisioning the East Durham Children’s Initiative. Like Geoffrey Canada, founder of the Harlem Children’s Zone, they were determined to provide children in low-wealth communities with high-quality, comprehensive services and opportunities that would prepare them for college or career.

With the help of research by the Children’s Environmental Health Initiative of Duke University, risk factors in various communities were assessed and East Durham was identified as one of Durham’s most distressed neighborhoods. A 120-block area of East Durham was later selected as EDCI’s target area, known as the EDCI Zone. 



A trip to the Harlem Children’s Zone, planning activities, seed grants, and a visit to Durham by Paul Tough marked the launch of EDCI. Community forums were held to get feedback from East Durham residents and leaders. 

One of the most important community forums was a “kitchen table” conversation in October 2009 that was attended by over 100 residents and community leaders. The concerns, hopes, and possible solutions presented at this and later meetings formed the basis for EDCI’s initial programming.



EDCI joined Duke University’s Center for Child and Family Health while continuing community engagement efforts and infrastructure development, including its first summer camp. David Reese was hired as the first executive director and Mary Mathew came on as the program manager.



EDCI oversaw and organized the building of a KaBoom! playground in the heart of the EDCI Zone. The EDCI Parent Advocate program was launched, as well as programming in areas including food security, school readiness, and out-of-school enrichment. A highlight of this year was a visit from Geoffrey Canada of the Harlem Children’s Zone.

EDCI secured additional funding and gained 501(c)3 nonprofit status, solidifying its role as a community-based nonprofit.



EDCI moved its offices to East Durham, in the Shepherds House Church on North Driver Street.

The Stepping Stones kindergarten-readiness program was launched, and continues to be one of EDCI’s core programs. EDCI’s Parent and Community Advisory Council (PCAC) was created at this time to facilitate community input and outreach.

The highlight of this year was when David Reese and 14 kids from Y.E. Smith Elementary had the opportunity to meet First Lady Michelle Obama.


EDCI has continued to grow. To keep up with the latest developments, have a look at our Stories and follow us on social media. 

Spotlight Content

Let's talk about impact

Let's talk about impact

We're celebrating our eighth year in operation at EDCI. We have a lot to be proud of and a lot to work toward. We invite you to read our Impact Summary.  
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