The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

April 2, 2011

Going downtown

CDSA raising money to consolidate local services

By Robert Barron, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle

ENID — A historic downtown Enid store stands empty, like a missing tooth in a row of stores on south Independence.

But if Cheri Ezzell has her way, the building soon will be full of non-profit agencies working together and sharing information. And Ezzell has a way of making things come to pass.

Ezzell is executive director of Enid’s Community Development Support Association, a non-profit agency that owns the old Newman’s building downtown. Ezzell plans to turn the store into a center that would gather a number of non-profits together to co-locate and share information.

The goal is $2.9 million, and to date CDSA has raised $2 million. There still is grant money outstanding, but Ezzell said the agency needs to raise more money locally.

“Part is a challenge grant, $320,000 from the Mabee Foundation, which will come when the rest is collected,” Ezzell said.

There are a number of large grants pending that require local funding.

CDSA financing normally comes through grants acquired from various government and private sources.

This is the first time the agency has undertaken fundraising locally, Ezzell said.

The idea of creating a non-profit center so agencies can co-locate and share information is new for Oklahoma.

“It’s even more important in a tight economy,” Ezzell said.

In addition to various non-profit service agencies, the downtown building specifically would house Center for Early Childhood Resources. CDSA officials believe the greatest impact in made on the life of an individual when they are little.

“If you don’t get the support you need then, you will struggle later in life. It’s important to the community,” Ezzell said.

Early Childhood Director Paula Waters described it like constructing a building. The foundation must be strong. If there is a fault in the foundation the entire structure could be compromised, she said.

“That’s why so many resources are dedicated to childhood programs,” she said.

Enid Community Clinic already occupies space in the basement of the building for its program, which distributes medical supplies.

CDSA has been approached by a number of other small non-profits that are interested in building space, but no decisions have been made yet.

“I believe when the facility is complete, it will be so attractive to non-profits they will want to come there,” Ezzell said.

CDSA’s financial goal will include maintenance and furnishings for the building, but the biggest costs are electrical. The former furniture store has no light switches or electrical outlets. The air-conditioning must serve a 50,000 square foot building and make it comfortable for those working there.

Those costs add up quickly, plus there is asbestos in the building that must be removed. They also will replace windows.

“We don’t have a extravagant budget, and we’re filling a large empty space downtown.”

Ezzell hopes to conclude fund raising by early summer.