Closings and delays

Old office building in Winston-Salem transformed into home for nonprofits

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The Winston-Salem Center for Education and the Arts provides space for a handful of local non-profits in the former Employment Security Commission building on 6th St. in downtown Winston-Salem. (David Rolfe/Journal)

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — An old office building downtown Winston-Salem has been transformed into a shining home for local nonprofit organizations, according to the Winston-Salem Journal.

The former N.C. Employment Security Commission building on West Sixth Street is now the John 3:16 Building owned by the Winston-Salem Center for Education and Arts.

After the ESC moved out a few years ago, First Baptist Church bought the building with the plan of eventually demolishing it and expanding its parking lot.

A group approached the church with the idea of converting the building into a mission to serve Winston-Salem through nonprofit organizations. Church leaders agreed, and the Winston-Salem Center for Education and the Arts was created.

The 17,500-square-foot-building houses four organizations that seek to improve the community by working with people on a one-on-one basis through education, leadership development or training.

Cathy Owen is the president of the board of directors and one of the driving forces behind the center.

“We want organizations that help people directly,” Owen said as she led a tour of the building.

Owen said that after First Baptist signed the building over to the group, volunteers — including many from First Baptist — gutted the interior.

“The center did the basics of the remodeling, and the organizations paid for anything else,” Owen said.

The groups have their spaces rent free and share such expenses as electricity, water and cleaning based on the square footage of their areas.

The groups in the building are the Winston-Salem Street School, Leadership Winston-Salem, Dress for Success and Authoring Action. Owen said there is room for another agency, and she would like to see an organization that teaches art classes to help people who haven’t had the opportunity to learn to paint and draw.

David Morgan, the founder and director of the Street School, said that the building has helped the school expand and improve. The school was the center’s first tenant, moving in two years ago. The downtown location has increased the school’s visibility to the community. The school is for high school students who are at risk for dropping out or have dropped out.

“The students have a central place to come,” Morgan said. “We provide a traditional high school experience for our students and many have gone on to college or into the military.”

Glynis Bell, the executive director of Dress for Success, said that the new space has allowed the agency to expand and become a boutique. It provides women who are ready to enter the job market with business clothes, shoes, undergarments and accessories. In addition to the clothes, volunteers help the clients develop work skills.

“We help them develop interview skills and continue working with them after they are hired by providing them with a week’s worth of business separates,” Bell said. “We give them a complete look.”

Owen said that Authoring Action helps young people learn to express themselves through such artistic endeavors as painting, and writing and performing plays.

Leadership Winston-Salem, an organization that works to educate and energize community leaders and connect them with other leaders, had outgrown its previous office. Jo Ellen Carson, the executive director, was excited to be able to move her organization to the center.

“This is a beautiful place. It’s inspiring to see what came from the shell that we walked through two years ago,” she said.