The new headquarters for Horton’s Kids, a nonprofit with the mission to aid children, is located in the Fort Stanton neighborhood in Ward 8. (Courtesy of Horton's Kids)
The new headquarters for Horton’s Kids, a nonprofit with the mission to aid children, is located in the Fort Stanton neighborhood in Ward 8. (Courtesy of Horton's Kids)

Horton’s Kids, a nonprofit whose mission is to aid children with educational, physical and emotional support and services, has moved its headquarters to the Fort Stanton section of Ward 8 in Southeast.

The grand opening of the new facility, a renovated New United Baptist Church, occurred on Feb. 3 with 50 staffers, board members and stakeholders attending. Erica Ahdoot, the executive director of Horton’s Kids, said the nonprofit had intentionally bought the former church building as a sign that it will continue its mission to help people, especially those who are young and located primarily in neighborhoods east of the Anacostia River.

“We are honored that the leadership of New United Baptist Church chose to sell their former church to us so we could continue their legacy of serving this community,” Ahdoot, 48, said. “Given that the church has been a gathering place for residents in this area for decades, it is fitting that the building will now house wrap-around support for young people and their families.”

The nonprofit is an outgrowth of a 1989 effort by Capitol Hill staffers to volunteer to improve the lives of young people residing in Southeast, D.C.. According to data provided by the nonprofit, 4,200 volunteers have provided over 400,000 hours of service to more than 1,700 children, served nearly 200,000 meals, and distributed more than 15,000 books. The nonprofit has two other community resources centers located in Wellington Park and Stanton Oaks.

The facility cost $3.5 million to renovate and features 19,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor space designed to let its patrons participate in the organization’s activities as well as relax. A state-of-the-art media lab with studio quality sound recording equipment has been installed to let patrons’ experiment with music technology.

“This media lab has been a game changer,” said Rahaman Kilpatrick, 48, the nonprofit’s director of family engagement & advocacy. “It gives the young people a chance to do something they can enjoy. It beats the lure of the streets.”

Close to the media lab sits the Clover Room. Joh’nita Johnson, Horton’s Kids senior manager for college & career readiness, said the space allows patrons to unwind, play video games and engage in discussion groups.

“The kids told me this is what they wanted,” Johnson, 48, said. “They said they wanted a place with aesthetic vibes. We also wanted to make sure that this room didn’t feel so clinical. They are free to express themselves and to be comfortable.”

The new facility has space for partnering organizations, such as Preventive Measures, with its mission to provide mental health services to young people, and programming offered by In a Perfect World, led by Manuela Testolini.

“Young people have the capacity to change the world,” Testolini, 46, said. “This is our youth experience center. We offer them a Teen Ambassador program and mentoring and leadership workshops. We are giving young people a voice.”

Nana Rudolph Stewart III, who served as the pastor of the former New United Baptist Church, said Horton’s Kids will be a good facility for young people in the neighborhood.

“I like what they want to do,” Stewart said. “I am excited that our former church will become more of a community center. While I wish it had a strong spiritual aspect, I think it will do well here.”

Robert L. Jones lives across the street from the new facility. He said he moved to the neighborhood in 1975. Jones, 82, fully embraces the addition to his block.

“I have no complaints,” Jones said. “Things are not as bad as they used to be. The area is improving. Horton’s Kids will be a great asset to the community.”

James Wright Jr.

James Wright Jr. is the D.C. political reporter for the Washington Informer Newspaper. He has worked for the Washington AFRO-American Newspaper as a reporter, city editor and freelance writer and The Washington...

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