Previewing The Emily K Center

What initially started as Father David of Immaculate Conception Catholic church in Durham, NC looking for a way to build a bigger gymnasium for his church has blossomed into a 30,000 square foot facility that will be known as the Emily Krzyzewski Family Life Center. The building will be home to 3 basketball courts, numerous athletic fields, a multipurpose room, a performance theatre with a big stage, and offices for Center directors and affiliated neighborhood associations.

Duke Head Basketball Coach Mike Krzyzewski's mother has had the building named after her by Krzyzewski. Emily Krzyzewski is a second generation American whose parents immigrated from Poland. With her husband William, the Krzyzewski's raised two sons in Mike and Bill Krzyzewski on Chicago's North Side. Last year, while addressing the Duke Student body the night before the Duke vs. North Carolina match-up in Cameron Indoor Stadium, Coach K described his mother as the "kindest person he has ever known" and "a women that would love him unconditionally no matter what he did."

After passing on in 1996, Coach K wanted to make sure her legacy of loyalty, hard work and devotion was not forgotten so working with Father David of Immaculate Conception and others, the Emily K Family Life Center was established.

More than just a place for kids to participate in sports and finish their homework after school, The Emily K Family Life Center aims to help people at all ages and stages of life. From senior citizens to elementary school kids, the Emily K Family Life Center will work to help revitalize the City of Durham.

Using the motto "Touching hopes and Dreams", the Emily K Family Life Center is especially important to Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski because it was a community center on the north side of Chicago that helped change his life and provided him with an environment where he could learn and grow.

To better summarize its mission, the Emily K Family Life Center "provides support for children and their families by integrating education, skill development and recreational programming, fostering social interaction between communities in an environment conducive to physical, psychological, and spiritual well-being."

The ground breaking ceremony on the building occurred several months ago and currently an opening date is projected for early to mid 2005.

TDD's Dave Dixon sat down with the Emily K Family Life Center's Program Director Randy Little to learn more about the Center.

What is the mission of the Emily K Family LIFE Center?

Our goal is to provide services for children and family's in the west end of Durham by strengthening their psychological, social, emotional, physical and spiritual well being for an entire family, not just a segment of the family. We want to work with the entire family and bring a comprehensive approach to the family's concept by offering not only programs for kids, but for adults too.

So this is different than many community centers in that it is not just a place for kids to go play basketball, do there homework and stay out of trouble after school then. This is something for the entire family?

Yes, the center is going to be unique in itself. I think a lot of community centers or recreation centers focus on recreation and I understand that is there theme and purpose. The Emily K Family Life Center is going to educate kids and adults through recreation and social programs.

What is the initial size of the building and specific location of it in Durham?

The building is going to be 30,000 square feet and it is going to be on the corner of Chapel Hill St and Buchanan St. right down from the Durham Police Department. It is right next to Immaculate Conception Church. It is going to be right where Don's Dogs is.

What does your role entail as Program Director now and how will that role change when the building is complete?

My current role overseas programs for adults as well as children and senior citizens. My background is in youth programming so I developed 12 or 13 programs that deal with services for young people but I have also been given the task of providing services and programs for adults as well as senior citizens. One thing we envision for the older population is some kind of money management program as well as bringing in some social service agencies and creating adult recreation programs for them on weekends and evenings. I am trying to get our younger population more involved with senior citizen activities.

We also will bring the senior citizens to the Center for participation in activities such as arts and craft workshop or those type of things, as well as health and fitness so they can remain active and happy and teach them about eating and operating on a fixed income as so many of them are on. The heart of the center is basketball. We also have a stage there. Their will be lots of kids playing basketball and using the gymanasium for all sorts of activities, even learning to play golf.

We will also be providing other agencies and organizations the opportunity to use the facilities when we are not using it for there activities and games. We are really going to try to do a lot of things there and by me being the program director I am going to focus on the educational aspect by offering a debate program. We want all our programs to help prepare kids for what they will face later in life. We hope this will help them not make some of the mistakes some of us have made in our lives.

What is Coach K's role going to be within the organization?

In addition to being one of the major contributors that allowed for the Center to be named after his mother I think he is going to be a person who will help spearhead the direction and vision of this Center and to make sure that the legacy of his mother's name lives on. I am looking to learn as much as I can from him and take the information from him and our board of directors and filter it to the people who it involves. His vision, ideas and philosophy's will filter onto everyone.

So his role will be more than just that of a financial donor correct?

Oh yes, he is VERY much involved.

Because the building is in the process of being built right now, are there activities for the citizens of Durham going on at other locations as part of the Emily K Family LIFE Center?

Yes, we have the 3 on 3 Bull City Shootout which is going to be our annual tournament for the public. It is for youth as well as adults. We had that in the Spring of 2002 and now we are partnering with other organizations in that for the future. We are working with the Shoulder Foundation in a weekend math and science program and they are actually doing the instruction on that. We are working with the Proud Program and we provide services for them including teaching classes such as health and fitness and money management. We are working with the City of Durham through Parks and Recreation to develop a nighttime basketball league as well as a YMCA and working with some other organizations in the City of Durham. We really want to be one of the stabilizing organizations in the City of Durham so everyone can pool together resources and make a direct impact on the people we serve.

We just want to come in and show everybody that we are willing to work together for the common goal of making the residents of Durham better citizens, the youth better students, and the adults better people. We are also hoping to help students become volunteers and in time perhaps we can get some internships for them.

When was the ground breaking for the Center and do you have a projected opening date for it?,

The ground breaking already occurred in August. The target date for opening is around April of 2005.

How can a person contribute to the Emily K Family LIFE Center? Can donations be more than just financial? Can people donate time volunteering and can people also volunteer resources such as athletic equipment or desks etc?

People can contribute financially and also by volunteering. If you have an expert area or your area of concentration you can definitely come out and volunteer and we will have a lot of opportunities for people. Our programs and services are so broad I think everyone can fit in that has knowledge of education or athletics or even being a mentor to a child or an adult. Also, if you have any equipment, furniture or supplies of any sort that would help us cut costs, that would also be greatly appreciated.

Is there any size contribution that is too small?

No, any contribution is VERY appreciated. ANYTHING that comes from the heart is appreciated.

What made you decide to pursue this career and how did this come about?

I attended North Carolina Wesleyan College in Rocky Mount where I studied criminal justice and after one class I thought that it was not the best fit for me. I decided to get involved in the city and school programs in Rocky Mount and I started working with the children. We would have children come on campus and we would have small clinics for them and help them with their homework. I also helped out with the Special Olympics and I also went out to the schools and spoke to children about the importance of education. I felt that by trying to share my experiences, I could helping kids. I took that to heart and decided to major in physical education and started working with youth in Durham and that was very rewarding. I especially found it rewarding when something I taught someone was understood and helpful to them. I felt like WOW, they got it. It has worked out great. I have worked in Durham for about 6 years now.

How did the idea of the Emily K Family LIFE Center come about?

It started in 2000 when Father David at Immaculate Conception Church wanted a bigger gymnasium and Coach K got involved and pledged his gift. It is not only a gym for the school and church but it is also for the whole community. With Coach K's donation other people came on board and the idea of that stretched into what we are right now.

How can people contact you to donate or contact you to enroll in a program or service you offer?

There are several ways to contact us. Our website can be visited at or people can call us at 919-688-3382 and speak to myself, Executive Director Tenita Philyaw-Rogers, or any member of our staff.

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