Martindale-Brightwood community mainstay opens second campus

After years of work and an investment of about $6.8 million, a Martindale-Brightwood community mainstay held a ribbon-cutting ceremony Wednesday to celebrate the near-completion of its second location.

Edna Martin Christian Center’s 25,000-square-foot Leadership and Legacy Center will boost the 80-year-old not-for-profit’s youth-services capacity by 10 times. It includes a preschool, a high school, dedicated space for seniors, a business incubator and an urban farm. The bulk of the campus, at 2259 Ralston Ave., is two weeks from being fully operational, according to Edna Martin staff.

“It’s been six years of blood, sweat, tears and commitment,” said Edna Martin President and CEO Barato Britt, in addition to the challenges brought by the coronavirus pandemic.

“We all have an obligation to make sure that this comeback [from the pandemic] is equitable,” said Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett. “True prosperity should lift every neighborhood in Indianapolis and every resident of Indianapolis, which means that every neighborhood must have access to the right tools to achieve that level of equitable success and prosperity.”

The organization serves about 3,000 people a year, many regularly and some as one-offs, estimated Immanuel Ivey, senior director of workforce development and entrepreneurship.

The work has changed lives.

“I never saw this for myself and my future,” said Daniel Mallory, a logistics trainer and family success coach at Edna Martin.

Mallory said he’d heard about the center and its credential programs while in prison. On his second day out, he began volunteering there. Then, he enrolled in the program, completed a logistics certification and found work in logistics and warehousing. Two years later, Mallory is teaching the same program he graduated from, and said he recently got his first promotion.

“Once I got my certificate, I always wanted to be a part of this program. Edna Martin is like a family to me. … People believed in me, and they believed I was somewhat of a motivating factor for the youth,” said Mallory, whose job includes mentorship.

The new facilities will allow Edna Martin to expand its capacity.

Where the first location at 2605 E. 25th St. had one room for school-age youth, capped at about 30 children, the organization will be able to serve about 300 students with the help of its new space, said vice president Maggie Goeglein. A new preschool will add 88 slots for young children to the organization’s original 110 spots, freeing up rooms and resources to serve more infants and toddlers, Goeglein added.

Seniors, who’d been moved from room to room as Edna Martin outgrew its first facility, now have their own room. The building’s kitchen was renovated, so the organization can provide food to community members, and there are two new playgrounds, one for the preschoolers and one for older children. The Community Solutions and Entrepreneurship Center, a business incubator with a focus on helping young entrepreneurs, now has its own space.

Martindale-Brightwood’s only high school, KIPP Legacy High, is in the building next door and has been operational since 2019, according to its website. KIPP Indy Public Schools is a not-for-profit network of public charter schools.

Out back is a new urban garden, on what was a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Superfund clean-up site. The building now housing the Leadership and Legacy Center was originally a heating oil distribution facility and left behind decades of petroleum and lead pollution, according to Edna Martin. The EPA finished the clean-up in 2016 after replacing more than 7,000 tons of soil. Now, in collaboration with Brandywine Creek Vineyards and Winery, Edna Martin is tending to lush green rows of plants.

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