History in North Carolina

PLEASE WALK with us on a journey through a brief history of Eckerd Connects in North Carolina from 1977 to the present – highlighting the significant impact we are having on our children, youth, and families today.

Picutre of ampers sitting around a campfire in the 1970s
During the 1970’s wilderness programs were gaining popularity throughout the country as an option to help youth with emotional and behavioral issues. They were seen as a positive alternative to incarceration.

Expanding the Wilderness Programs 

Eckerd Connects began to provide services to North Carolina youth in 1977 with the opening of Camp E-Toh-Kalu in Hendersonville, NC This program was modeled after Eckerd’s wilderness programs in Florida that had been operating for nine years.  

Within the next year, Camp E-Ku-Sumee opened in Candor, NC and then in 1979 Camp E-Mun-Talee opened in Lowgap, NC along with Camp E-Ma-Henwu in Newport, NC Eckerd successfully served thousands of youths for nearly twenty years in North Carolina.  

As needs continued to change, we designed a more abbreviated model that contributed to the growth of three more programs: Camp E-Tik-Etu in 1995 in Elizabethtown, NC, Camp E-Ten-Etu in the same year in Manson, NC, and Camp E-Ma-Etu located in Boomer, NC in 2000. Those three programs joined the operations of four long-standing programs which meant our team of dedicated chiefs were serving 400 youths on any given day.

2 campers helping another over a fence. A group of camper helps from below

Time of Change 

In 2008 the United States experienced a significant economic downturn which led to a historic recession. A difficult decision had to be made about our future. 

During 2009-2011, five programs were closed, and the two remaining programs were transitioned to provide services in a more traditional residential setting in Candor and Boomer for boys. Then in 2020, Kerr Lake was established for Girls.  

In 2014 we merged with Caring for Children to serve the Foster Care community in the 19 counties around Asheville. Additionally, since 2017 Eckerd Connects Workforce Development has helped youth find and keep jobs.  

Through the years we have changed, grown, and adapted while continuing to maintain the Eckerd Connects pride and passion. Our mission to “provide and share solutions that promote the well-being of children, young adults and families in need” is being fulfilled now more than ever before.

Current North Carolina Programs

Caring For Children 

2 foster children shooting a basketball

IN AUGUST of 2014, Eckerd Connects merged with Caring for Children. Today we serve 400 youth and families annually in 19 counties around Asheville and offer services in:  

  • Therapeutic Foster Care Services  
  • Family Foster Care serving 45 clients annually  
  • Intensive In-Home Family Preservation Services serving 120 clients annually 
  • Respite Care Scholarships serving 120 youth and families annually 
  • Trinity Place, a run-away shelter serving 150 youth annually 

Residential Academies- Boomer & Candor for Boys, Kerr Lake for Girls

Young man sitting at a bench

THESE THREE programs are serving more than 200 youth annually. Today we have a full array of medical services, counseling, educational, vocational, and substance abuse prevention programs. Dental and optometry services are brought to the program to ensure our youth get back on track with required care which may not have happened at home.  

But most importantly, we didn’t lose what made us, us. Our groups still huddle or round out to solve common teen problems such as arguments and accountability, our staff and youth still enjoy meals together in the dining hall, and our holidays are still celebrated together with rituals such as Turkey in the Hole.  

We are recognizing our youths’ potential in the work field by partnering with outside services and trained staff to deliver skill certifications, making them more employable. We also offer support groups for our parents during the program and afterward we help troubleshoot the difficulties of transition. 

For those identified as needing more support post-discharge we partner with outside case management agencies while the youth is in the program to build that relationship for when the youth leaves our program.  

We also continue to look at new opportunities to serve youth needing residential care. During September of 2020 Eckerd Connects accepted the contract to operate a 20-bed girls program located on the former site of Camp E-Ten-Tu located in Manson N.C. 

Kerr Lake

Smiling young woman on the Kerr Lake campus

Kerr Lake serves females from the ages of 13-17 in a rural home-like setting. We recognize the unique circumstances that girls in juvenile justice care face and have designed a program to address those elements.  

Our girls are provided with several trauma-focused, evidence-based interventions to not only address the pain they may have experienced, but also to provide resources to cope.  

We continue to bolster staff development to equip our team with the tools necessary to meet the needs of our youth. By learning from the past, we can prepare ourselves for the work that’s ahead. 

Workforce Development

North Carolina Workforce Employees posing for a picture

DURING THE fiscal years of 2017-2021 Eckerd Connects opened several Workforce Development programs for youth, young adults, unemployed workers, dislocated workers, and underemployed people.  

These programs are serving people across the state to include Durham, Wake, Johnston, Caper Fear Valley, Pender, Brunswick, and New Hanover counties.  

650 people are served annually by the following programs:  

  • Durham WIOA adult and dislocated workers serving unemployed and underemployed people ages 18 and older (250 people annually) 
  • Durham Youth Program-NextGen serves youth ages 16-24 with employment barriers (150 youth annually) 
  • Training To Work in Durham serves prison re-entry for those living in Durham (50 people annually) 
  • Roads to Re-Entry serves prison re-entry in Johnston and Wake County (180 people annually)  
  • Wake County Adult Detention Center assists in re-entry services for those leaving the Wake County Adult Detention Center (60 people annually) 
  • NC Works One Stop Operator manages the operations of NC Works in Pender, New Hanover, and New Brunswick counties (began operations in 2021)

Today we are serving more people in need than at any time in our 43-year history of operating programs in North Carolina. With the help of people like you, we now reach over 1,200 people each year. That’s right, more than 1,200 children youth, and families who now have a future filled with hope and opportunity because of friends like you.

Donate Caring For Children Residential Academies Workforce Development