Community members on Wednesday celebrated the grand re-opening of the Evelyn K. Davis Center for Working Families in its new location at 1171 Seventh St., on the east edge of the DMACC Urban Campus. 

The newly renovated 23,000-square-foot facility nearly doubles the space that the center had at its former location at 801 University Ave. Des Moines Area Community College bought the building, which was previously owned and occupied by Anawim Housing as an administration center, in December. 

DMACC President Rob Denson, DMACC Urban Campus Provost Anne Howsare Boyens, Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines President Kristi Knous, Iowa Workforce Development Director Beth Townsend and Bobbretta Brewton, a community leader, each spoke at the celebration and open house. 

Now in its seventh year, the center combines workforce training and programs such as financial literacy, English as a second language, computer training and other skills development. Last year the center served nearly 11,000 people, with about 3,500 new clients coming through the doors each year. In total, more than 35,000 clients have received services through the center since it opened in 2012. 

“We’re really excited to be able to provide just about everything here in one location,” said Marvin DeJear, who has been the center’s director from its inception. “Since we’ve been open, just by simply putting people back to work we’ve been able to generate a little over $57 million of wages earned back to the community through these job placements.” 

The Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines, which seven years had provided a $600,000 grant to fund the center, provided a $250,000 grant towards the remodeling cost. 

The new space has enabled the center to add a second computer lab for on-site information technology training, along with new classrooms, a conference area for up to 75 people, and a student lounge area, among other amenities. 

There’s also a large dedicated room that houses the Men on the Move program, which provides donated suits and professional clothing. Davis Center clients formerly had to go to a nearby church to access that program. 

The second level of the building houses most of the 18-person staff, including career and financial counselors, as well as the center’s workforce training academy. 

With the new location, both community clients and DMACC students will have easier access to the center, without having to cross busy University Avenue, and with better access to DART bus stops. 

“I think this puts us in a position where people have a little bit better access to us, and allows us to better serve students as well,” DeJear said.