West End neighborhood ministry ready for the neighbors again

jwise@newsobserver.comJune 16, 2014 

  • House is open

    Duke Chapel and its PathWays Fellows will hold an open house at the relocated and remodeled PathWays House, 713 Kent St., from 3 to 6 p.m. Saturday. Come and go as you please.” For questions, email bruce.puckett@duke.edu or call 919-667-5258.

— After its journey of 500 feet, PathWays House was coming back together last week.

Straw mulch still covered the front yard, some front-porch newel posts needed painting and, inside, the director’s office looked more like a warehouse, but Duke Chapel’s outpost in the West End neighborhood was just about ready for company.

“It’s beautiful, they’ve done a great job,” said David Anthony, who lives right down the street.

Anthony, his neighbors and all other interested parties are invited to PathWays’ open house, 3 to 6 p.m. Saturday, to show off the fixed-up, spiffed-up ministry home in its new location at 713 Kent St.

Where PathWays House was, at 1115 W. Chapel Hill St., Durham Central Market’s grocery store is going up, part of Self-Help’s Kent Corner office-retail project.

Former West End Neighborhood Association President Sandy Demeree said the market organizers’ commitment to serving “my people” is “the one best thing that ever happened” for the neighborhood.

But PathWays House has its importance, too, as a physical symbol of neighborhood revival, according to Kent Corner project manager Micah Kordsmeier. So rather than tear down the two-story, 3,127 square-foot bungalow, Self-Help paid to move it.

Before Duke Chapel set up its PathWays program in 2006, the house was a run-down rooming house renowned for drug dealing and police busts.

“It was a sore in the community,” said Hannah Ward, one of the six recent Duke University graduates who are spending a year working for social-service agencies around town and coming home at night to the PathWays House.

West End residents “really saw the change in the house,” said Bruce Puckett, the Duke Chapel community-ministry director, whose office is at PathWays.

PathWays is intended to help young adults find their callings, while learning to build relationships with neighbors in social and economic situations very different from what Duke undergraduates are familiar with.

“It’s time in Durham to think and reflect and pray,” said Rachel White, another graduate just starting her year in the program.

“They’re a pretty neat group,” said Demeree, who no longer lives in West End. “Good, good, good people.”

How much PathWays residents actually interact with the neighbors has varied from one group to another, she said, but Puckett said he has asked this year’s group to find “at least one place to be engaged” – maybe tutoring at the nearby Lyon Park Community Center or seeking out a neighbor to become a “front-porch mentor.”

Last week, they were still occupied with putting the house in order after its move and several months’ interior work to repair vandals’ damage while the house was unoccupied.

Anthony’s home is next to the 2.7-acre Kent Corner site, so he had a ringside seat to watch as the house moved, from one corner of the project site to the other, through the January mud.

“I watched the whole thing. It was quite an event, actually,” Anthony said. “They brought up these giant jacks that were on four-wheel machines that were remote controlled. They picked the darn thing up and ... just walked it over to its new place. It was really interesting, quite impressive.”

PathWays, Anthony said, is one example of a major outreach presence he has observed Duke building during the 20 years he has lived in West End.

“It’s a giant leap for Duke to reach out here,” he said. “Translating vision, which is pie in the sky ... it’s quite different from making things happen.”

Still, things do happen.

“I felt like a stranger (in Durham),” Ward said. “I’d been here four years but knew nothing. ... I already feel like I know so much more.”


Wise: 919-641-5895

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