West End Center Recognizes Volunteers and Students

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by Elizabeth Matthews Jones Garner

On June 3rd, both volunteers and students were honored with a program at the West End Center (WEC). Dozens of children were recognized for three achievements during the school year: Peace-Builders, Academic All Stars and AB Honor Roll students.

Each was given a personalized certificate and colorful star balloon with “Congratulations” printed across its shiny surface in large primary colors.  Parents who have been involved in the Parents Academy this year also received certificates of achievement and gifts from Joy Parrish, the center’s Executive Director and Mary Ferrell, 6th-7th Group Leader and Parents’ Group Coordinator.

Many people are surprised  to learn that the people at WEC have been helping children in the Hurt Park and West End neighborhoods since 1979.  Since then, the WEC has experienced tremendous growth both in the number of children served and the available programs and services.

According to Nathan Proutey, the Peace Builders Coordinator, “Volunteers don’t just help the kids.  They help the parents too.” The success story is this: more than half of the children in the programs provided at the West End Center are on the AB Honor Roll at their various schools.  The majority of the children range from 5 – 11 years of age; less than 23% are 12-17 years old.  The skills and lessons taught through staff and community volunteers prepare these kids for a more positive autonomy when their parents feel they are responsible enough to stay home alone after school and during the summer months.

The Summer Program is similar to the After School Program in a day-long format. Children continue to pursue the same activities they engage in during the school year as well as additional ones. They swim most afternoons at a city pool. Other field trips are scheduled on a regular basis. Nutrition has an even greater role during the summer. Since the children depend on free and reduced breakfasts and lunches at school, WEC provides these meals in the summer, as well as a snack in mid-afternoon.

It takes many individuals to care for these kids. Volunteers are always needed and if there is any question about whether or not the West End Center is a good place to spend a little time each week, take a look at these statistics: 93% of the children are living in a home headed by a single parent.  70% of the parents work, 4% are disabled, and 1% of guardians are retired, 51% of the children live below the poverty level, 45% of the children live at a very-low income level. The median income of the families is $17,115, 95% of the children receive free or reduced lunch, 34% of the children have an identified special need (chronic health needs, mental health needs, special education, ADHD, or multiple needs).

Volunteers do not have to be an experienced tutor to help a child. Being a mentor, helping with a weekly club, assisting teachers with field trips and listening to a child read are all important to West End kids.  Monetary donations are always in need, as are office and craft supplies, food, beverages and snacks.  Summer is an ideal time to find out if the WEC is the right fit for you. The summer programs provide all day care and activities, and many of the personal tutors and mentors may not be available year round.

For more information and how to volunteer go to www.westendcenter.org or call (540)342-0902.