East End agency will remodel, add to existing home; planned warehouse buy fizzled

$5.9 million project will include constructing an addition, making major improvements to upstairs space; agency is still raising last $900,000

A community anchor in East Dayton says its plans for a new facility fell apart last year after a real estate purchase did not move forward.

After that, East End Community Services had to return to the drawing board and decided to renovate and add onto its current building instead of trying to acquire properties for a new facility.

Changing the project to such a great extent was a heavy lift, but East End is going to get the kind of facility it wants and needs and that the East Dayton community deserves, said Jan Lepore-Jentleson, executive director of East End Community Services.

“It’s a community center, but more importantly, it’s a place where families can grow and be successful,” she said.

Wall breaking

East End is a Xenia Avenue nonprofit working with children and families to break the cycle of multi-generational poverty. They provide academic and social programs for children, plus workforce, housing and anti-drug efforts for adults.

On Tuesday, East End staff joined supporters, elected leaders and a variety of community members outside the nonprofit organization’s East Dayton home for a “wall breaking” — which was a play on the traditional “groundbreaking” ceremony.

East End plans to spend about $5.9 million remodeling its facility at 624 Xenia Ave. The project will include constructing an addition on the east end of the property and making major improvements to an upstairs space that was rundown and unused.

The facility, which once was used as an animal feed grain operation, has only seen incremental improvements over the years. East End moved into the building in 1998.

East End originally planned to purchase and renovate two warehouse buildings at 606 and 608 Xenia Ave., which are just a couple of doors down from its headquarters.

But Lepore-Jentleson said the owner was not ready to sell and move out of the warehouse properties, so East End had to pivot and figure out a Plan B.

Time was a factor partly because East End has received federal money and funding from foundations for the project that must be spent within a certain timeframe.

“We were ready to go for another building, and we were ready to go for permits, and then the bottom kind of fell out on that and so we switched gears,” Lepore-Jentleson said.

This was a major setback about a year ago, but East End ultimately is going to get the type of facility that it needs to best serve the community, she said.

Montgomery County Commissioner Debbie Lieberman said this is a pivotal moment for East End, and that this project is going to help create a brighter future for the community, especially benefiting some of its most vulnerable residents. Montgomery County provided about $750,000 in federal COVID relief aid to the project.

“East End is taking that significant step and they’ve been a longtime partner for us,” Lieberman said. “The return on our investment is so great. ... We, all of us in here, want to reshape the landscape of opportunity for generations to come.”

Making progress

Lepore-Jentleson said demolition work inside East End’s main facility started about a month ago and construction activities are expected to begin soon. The project is expected to take about 10 months to complete.

East End will have about 17,500 square feet of remodeled space once the project is finished. That’s roughly the same amount of space that would have been inside the facility East End originally proposed constructing.

The renovated facility will have offices and meeting rooms for family and employment coaches, a computer lab and spaces for employment training and peer supporters, who work with people struggling with addiction.

The 45403 and 45410 zip codes in East Dayton remain drug overdose hotspots, even though overdose deaths have declined, officials said.

The upstairs will be turned into administrative offices and conference and storage space. Another building East End owns at 700 Xenia Ave. will become its new youth center.

East End has raised more than $5 million in funds for the project, but says it still needs to raise about $800,000 to $900,000 more.

Break the cycle

East End, which is 26 years old, seeks to improve outcomes for children and families in the community and break the cycle of generational poverty.

The nonprofit serves about 5,000 people every year and expects to be able to serve an additional 1,000 community members once its campus improvement project is finished.

Many families it serves live in some of the distressed zip codes in Montgomery County, supporters say. East End says it provides vital wrap-around services.

Tamarah Williams, 27, a Dayton resident, said she started receiving assistance from East End’s peer support program about two years ago. She said East End staff helped her stay sober and connected her to meetings and other people who were in recovery.

Williams said East End also helped her find a place to live and access medical services when she became pregnant.

“They helped me with food and clothing, things for my baby and child care, and even legal assistance,” she said. “They have been with me through sobriety, pregnancy and beyond.”

“I can’t thank them enough for being there for me and my baby and all of the thousands of people they serve in our neighborhood every day,” she said.

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