Center puts kids first

Published 2:27 pm Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The mission of the Kids First Awareness Center off County Road 11 is to give back.

The center gives back to the community by supplying a place for kids to come learn, play and to be safe.

But it is also giving that allows the non-profit center to be functional for about 30-40 kids every day.

Through donations and volunteering, the center is able to provide educational resources, food and a safe environment for kids to play.

Kids First Director Cindy Hawkins calls the center’s donors and volunteers “special angels,” adding that the place could not exist without them.

“We’re doing a lot of good from our special angels,” Hawkins said. “Without them, we wouldn’t be where we are today.”

One person even donated approximately $20,000-$25,000 to the center, although Hawkins said she could not releases the exact amount or the person’s name because the donor requested anonymity.

The donation allowed the center to do things and improve the facility in ways Hawkins never dreamed were possible.

Through the donation, the center was able to purchase 17 new Dell computers.

“We used to have one computer, and it didn’t even work that well,” Hawkins said. “Now, we have the Internet. We never had the Internet before.”

In addition to the computers, the donation also helped fix the center’s van, which is used to haul Kids First’s mobile unit.

The mobile unit is a trailer Hawkins uses to promote education in the community’s neighborhoods.

The donation also allowed the center to renovate its playground, purchase hundreds of books, school supplies and educational materials, and a large supply of nutritious meals.

While the center thrives off donations, volunteers are also making a huge impact on the center’s success.

“That’s what keeps us alive,” Hawkins said.

Individuals who volunteer at the center are asked to come in one day a week for an hour to help the kids with their homework.

High school and college students, in addition to teachers and retired teachers, are just a few examples of those who choose to volunteer with the center.

Education is a huge part of the program, Hawkins said, and the kids are required to do homework from 4-5 p.m. each day.

If volunteers are going to give up their time to help at the center, Hawkins said, then the kids are going to take advantage of it and learn.

“I can keep my butt at home if you are going to come here and do nothing,” Hawkins said.

While education and recreation are vital programs to the center, Kids First also offers programs that address needs in the community.

The program currently offers a character education and drug awareness programs, in addition to an English-speaking program for Hispanic students. Hawkins said the center is also working on a fitness program to address the growing need to curb the obesity problem in kids.

Hawkins also realizes that many times, the problems kids have are at home.

“A lot of times, these kids just want to get away from home where their momma’s smoking crack, daddy’s smoking crack,” Hawkins said. “They know this is a safe place. I really want better for these kids because they can have better. This is not 1962.”

And although donors and volunteers help keep the center afloat, it is something else that allows the center to be a success.

“This is not a Cindy Hawkins program,” Hawkins said. “God just allows me to do this. The bottom line at the end of the day is what’s best for these kids.”

For more information about Kids First, contact Hawkins at 706-9467.