Bailey Loosemore, email@example.com
For a single parent of two teenagers, after-school activities don’t come cheap. Craig Acres used to take his 13-year-old twins, Jasmine and Jeffrey, to play basketball, visit parks, walk around the zoo — anything to keep them out of trouble. But costs were adding up for the residents of the St. Vincent de Paul’s Smoketown campus. This week, the family found a cheaper, educational option in St. Vincent’s Family Success Center, which opened within a block of their apartment. “I think it was a good idea because it really keeps the kids busy, it gives them something to do versus hanging out, being bored,” said Acres, who volunteers at the center’s front desk.
St. Vincent officials have long planned a family success center for its South Preston Street campus, which houses more than 300 people who were previously homeless. After proposing the center in a 2005 master plan, the agency finally began construction in January, spending about $1.5 million to remodel a Preston Street building that used to hold a thrift store, executive director Ed Wnorowski said.
In May, a new store opened at 10280 Shelbyville Road in Dorsey Plaza. The nonprofit generally focused on providing resources for parents in the past and hopes the center will reach the entire family with an after-school program and adult classes, such as on cooking and navigating the school system, Wnorowski said.
So far, the programs are open only to the 46 families — including 102 children — living in St. Vincent housing. The agency plans to open them to the surrounding community next year but will limit the number of children in its after-school program to 120, Wnorowski said. As of Friday, 26 children have registered. Families will pay a low membership fee to enroll in the after-school program, which will eventually run from 3-6 p.m. for middle and high school students and from 4-7 p.m. for elementary students. Within the next few weeks, Dare to Care will begin delivering hot meals for the kids.
Kendra Oatis, manager of family and children programs, said kids who come to the center after school typically have an hour to unwind and have a snack before doing their homework with help from a Jefferson County Public Schools tutor or volunteers. For the last hour, kids can take a class on topics including sports, music, art and dance.
Three St. Vincent employees work at the center, along with the tutor, and the agency is seeking volunteers to lead classes or supervise children.
The agency had originally partnered with another organization to run the after-school program, but the agreement fell through and St. Vincent now needs volunteers and supplies to get the programs going, Wnorowski said. Though the programs aren’t as far along as the agency hoped they’d be, Wnorowski said the dissolution of the partnership will allow staff to craft a program directed at the families they see every day. “We’re in a unique situation where the parents and families are already case managed and living with us,” he said.
Eighth-grader Jasmine Moore, 13, lives on the campus and started interning at the center Monday. She volunteers time to tutor elementary and middle school students as a way to build her resume and get into a good high school. “They’re trying to make it more than an after-school program,” she said, mentioning the classes are her favorite part. “Even though it’s an after-school program, you’ll still have fun.”
Reporter Bailey Loosemore can be reached at (502) 582-4646. Follow her on Twitter at @bloosemore.