Coach K speaks at Emily K Center

lkeeley@newsobserver.comMay 23, 2013 

— There’s much to learn about Mike Krzyzewski by watching him coach basketball.

But the way he has created and given the Emily K Center a vision is telling, too.

After a day full of obligations attached to his agreement to coach the USA Basketball through 2016, Krzyzewski came to the nonprofit center named after his mother that was founded in 2006. He was the keynote speaker for the second annual May March, a graduation ceremony for the 15 seniors who had completed the Scholars to College program. All 15 came from low-income backgrounds, and, with the help of the center’s after-school program, all found the necessary recourses to continue their education.

It’s a sight Krzyzewski couldn’t have imagined six years ago, when he was approached by Farther David McBriar, then a priest at nearby Immaculate Conception, about wanting a community center.

“And then Father said, ’we should name it after your mother,’ Krzyzewski said. “And he was smart. He got me committed for life and even after life.”

Today, the Emily K center, in addition to its after school education programs, offers space to about 80 organizations. The Durham Literacy Center, with people working toward their GEDs, uses it on the morning. The basketball team for the Durham police has used the gym to practice. In total, there are about 1,500 children, in addition to adults, that pass through on a weekly basis.

“It’s been a busy seven years, but it took some time to figure out what was going to be our best stuff,” said executive director Adam Eigenrauch. “And how do we frame everything else we do around that?”

There was a learning curve for everyone involved in the center, including Krzyzewski. He was initially taken back during the center’s inception during a meeting with other area community centers.

“I thought we were doing this really good thing, and we met with other centers in Durham, and they were all angry at us,” he said. “And I couldn’t understand, but they were all worried that there was only x amount of money that was going to be raised, and, if we put our name on something, we would get most of that x.

“So we promised them in our fundraising efforts how we would continue to do this that we would get it from outside money or family money.”

Krzyzewski’s main role for the center is chief fundraiser. There is family money, as, according to Duke’s 2011 form 990, he made $9.7 million that year-a figure that, as Krzyzewski points out, isn’t actually what he took home due to taxes and deferred compensation-and there is fundraising, too. The center made over $200,00 at their third annual mother’s day ball, and the Durham community, once leery of the center taking too much money, has embraced it physically and financially as well.

The Emily K Center today looks like the socioeconomic and ethnic melting pot Krzyzewski had hoped to create. And it’s still growing, too. Recently, 104 families attended an information session about enrolling their children in the after school Pioneer Scholars program. All 104 opted to fill out applications on the spot.

“A huge thing for these kids is that they’re here because somebody gave them something and cared for them,” Krzyzewski said, “So they were given the gift of giving and the gift of caring. If they go to do their thing, they will give back and care better. That’s the cycle.”

Keeley 919-829-4556; Twitter @laurakeeley

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