Monday will jump start the third year of Kids Cafe, an after-school program that offers tutoring, nutrition education, mentoring and nutritious meals to children at risk of hunger.
Kids Cafe will operate Monday through Friday from 3 to 6 p.m. at the Leak Street Education and Cultural Center, located at 1004 Leak St. in Rockingham.
“Kids Cafe is for kids in kindergarten through ninth grade,” said J.C. Watkins, program coordinator. “Kids come for three hours and get a balanced meal provided by the Sandhills Food Bank of Eastern North Carolina. Blue Cross Blue Shield also works with them in funding the program.”
“This nutrition program, its main focus is to provide nutritious meals for the students, and to teach them to make good choices in the foods that they eat, and also provide physical activity for them,” said Hazel Robinson, who has volunteered in past years with Kids Cafe. “We’re seeing that children are being exposed to a lot of nutritious foods that they wouldn’t necessarily get at home. They’re getting fruit and milk and things that are good for the body.”
Watkins said that kids will also spend a large portion of the time engaging in physical activities.
“We want to keep them physically active,” he said. “We have the gymnasium at Leak Street, the playground, and space for all kinds of physical activities.” He added that two rooms in the Leak Street Center are currently being renovated to hold fitness equipment and other fun activities such as a pool table and tennis table.
While Kids Cafe is intended primarily as a nutrition program, it also provides a safe and positive environment where children can work on homework or get extra help with their studies.
Robinson said teachers were available to assist the children whenever they needed help.
“They were given time to work on their homework,” she said. “If they needed help with any of the work that they were assigned, the teacher was there. They also used the older kids to help the younger ones. The children enjoy it and they’re involved — they get a chance to choose some of the activities they do.”
A computer lab is also available for homework purposes.
“It’s good to have the lab there for children when they have assignments because a lot of the children do not have computers at home,” Robinson said.
This year, in collaboration with Kids Cafe, coordinators plan to bring a new element to the after-school program.
“Bruce Stanback and I are going to start a Little Theater,” Robinson said, explaining that students will be able to use the stage inside the Cultural Center to express themselves. “We’re excited about it because this will be the first year we’ll have an organized play. We’re going to hold auditions and rehearse for a Christmas play, which is planned for the first part of December.”
Auditions, Robinson said, will take place on Sept. 16, Sept. 20, and potentially a Saturday to accommodate those with previous engagements.
“We have a lot of talented children who are just eager to perform and to do things, and I feel that if we start this Little Theater there, it’s going to draw the kids in, and that’s what they enjoy doing,” she said. “I like the fact that it brings the children out, because a lot of children don’t really know what they want to do, or how much they can do, but when you give them confidence that you can express yourself and your expressions are appreciated — that means a lot to children. I taught school for many years, and helping the children to bring out the best in them — that’s what it’s all about.”
For additional information about Kids Cafe or to volunteer, call the Cultural Center at 910-997-6238. The Leak Street Cultural Center is a United Way Agency member.
— Staff Writer Mallory Brown can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 18, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.