The Reality Center Story

By The Reality Staff

Located in Trinity Park since 2008, the Reality Center at 919 Lamond Ave. works to “create opportunities for teens and adults with and without developmental disabilities to experience belonging, kinship and the life-changing Reality of Christ’s love.” The following article by Reality Center staff introduces the history of the non-profit and its place in the neighborhood.

Reality Ministries Inc. began in December of 2007. It was an unconventional beginning, a non-profit (501c3) with eight original staff people; these friends were a tight-knit group whose theological convictions had been rejected by their previous organization. The first office space was the old Bulls souvenir shop on Washington and Corporation, donated by Measurement Incorporated’s Hank Scherich.  The staff and a small group of volunteers continued what they had been doing for several years, placing primary focus on those with intellectual developmental disabilities. Vision casting for an eventual community center was already in the works. The target was five years.

Things happened much sooner than expected. In March of 2008 founder Dr. Jeff McSwain inquired about the “for sale” sign in front of Trinity Community Church (Christian Missionary Alliance denomination) at the corner of Gregson and Lamond. Pastor Norm Davis said a developer was interested in purchasing the property for conversion into ten condominiums. However, Davis added that his waning church had been praying that some kind of ministry would continue from “this corner.” In an act of faith, the pastor turned down a full payment from the developer ($550,000 in cash), and gave Reality time to pursue the opportunity. A funder gave Reality $100,000 for an initial payment, and on May 5 the building was purchased. The church also agreed to owner-finance the sale with no interest if principal could be met in six months. It felt like a miraculous chain of events. After receiving many generous gifts, and without taking out a bank loan, Reality made the last payment that November!

Reality Center staff stand in front of church building with SOLD sign.

In the fall of 2008 The Reality Center opened its doors, and originally included a wide variety of after school (recreation, enrichment classes, tutoring) and in school (alternative schooling) opportunities. The REBOUND initiative (http://reboundnc.org/) began here. Programming has seen many changes over the years, the most prominent transition being in 2013 when the ministry shifted its attention solely to those with intellectual disabilities.  Today Executive Director Susan McSwain oversees five days and two nights (Monday and Tuesday) of programming a week. Included each week are approximately 200 participants and also 200 volunteers. A hallmark event each year is the Reality Talent Show, which has continually filled auditoriums around Durham, progressing from the Reality Center to the Hayti Heritage Center to the Carolina Theatre and finally, for the last three years, to the DPAC.

Reality Center community sit at tables and chairs at year end celebration.

We are thankful to be a part of the Trinity Park community, and we want to welcome our neighbors to join us for a complimentary lunch at the Reality Café on the first and third Fridays of each month from noon to 1pm. It’s a great way to be introduced to Reality. The food is amazing (just ask Heidi Carter, Steve Schewel, the Unruhes or Pierce Freelon) and there is no charge! Please contact our Operations Manager Julie DeConto at 919-688-7776 for reservations (capacity is 40) or for more information go to www.realityministriesinc.org

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