Inclusion, diversity and more programs are the top priorities of the Second Ward Community Center's first director.

Inclusion, diversity and more programs are the top priorities of the Second Ward Community Center's first director.

Karriejoi Coit assumed her duties in September at the center's building, 50A Ross St.

The center was founded in 2010 as the Second Ward Community Initiative, said Harry Hart, a board member and founder of the center.

The organization was formed as a citywide nonprofit to meet a need "for the community to come together and be united," he said.

"When I grew up, everyone knew their neighbors. It was a closer-knit community," he said. "We want to maintain the same connectivity, to come together and do positive things. ... We work on behalf of the residents, sharing resources and providing intergenerational services across the span of life."

Coit will perform program management earlier handled by the center's board members, and has a wide-ranging vision for moving the center forward, she said.

A certified community health worker who has been employed by nonprofits for 15 years, Coit said the center will expand its range of art-based, educational, training, health and wellness initiatives.

"It's been exciting being here, being able to jump in," she said.

The community center was established to serve low-income, high-risk residents of Delaware's Second Ward, which encompasses the western and southwestern parts of the city. However, the center's mission evolved to serve the entire city, leaders said.

Among the center's past, current and future programs:

* A health fair was held in September, with information from health-care providers and enrollment for Medicaid and Medicare.

* A Christmas party is scheduled from noon to 2:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 15, with food, games, face painting and a visit from Santa among the activities.

* Workshops for seniors have covered topics including preventing falls and increasing activity, strength and balance.

* After-school tutoring is offered during the school year on reading, writing, science and mathematics for students in grades K-12.

* "Prim & Proper" is a weekly program that helps girls of all ages to develop self-worth, self-awareness and skills to enhance their professional, social and private lives.

A particular point of pride is the center's STEAM club for students. The club is advised and led by volunteer Tajudeen Bakare, an engineer with CT Consultants.

STEAM stands for science, technology, engineering, arts and math.

The club won first place in two recent competitions: the L.E.A.D. STEM Expert Symposium at the Columbus Metropolitan Library; and a SIMPLR STEAMShip League event in Westerville. Members also have attended several expos and camps.

Coit hopes to add art- and fun-based programs, ranging from sewing, pottery and dance programs to a drum program for children.

Delaware County's population includes a number of different cultural groups and ethnicities, she said, including Indian, Hispanic and African families. That number will increase as the county and city grow, she said.

In addition to being "a place where everybody can feel safe to express themselves," she said, the center's activities will draw on a variety of cultural influences that will add education to the fun.

A sewing program could include African cloth, she said, while music, dance, pottery and other programs could include techniques and artistic expression from around the world.

The result, she said, is the center can serve as a cultural epicenter for Delaware County.

Other future events could include a 5K fundraiser, she said, and a recognition event to honor those who have helped the center over the years.

The Second Ward Community Center is a United Way agency. The center leases its building from the city of Delaware.

The center's website is swcidelaware.org.

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