Kids First provides a safe place

Published 1:25 pm Monday, July 26, 2010

Cindy Hawkins is a short, fast-talking human dynamo who believes learning doesn’t stop when the school bell rings.

When husband Oscar Hawkins was ready to move back home from Georgia in the late ‘90s, he and Cynthia were appalled there was no after-school program for “at-risk” kids…some place where they could be provided with homework mentoring and snacks, and be involved in recreational activities, health, spiritual awareness, drug prevention programs, computer training, etc. They saw the need and stepped out on faith.

Hawkins started out with a trailer on her husband’s rental property. She enlisted friends, churches, individual volunteers and city support. She had a big dream and a determined attitude.

Their mission statement is, “We believe never say I can’t…..and giving up is simply not an option.”

Hawkins greeted my husband and me on a Monday afternoon at 1:30 and already more than a dozen kids were there.

The program is open from 3-6 p.m. but Hawkins said every kid around knows her car and they come running, no matter the time.

The kids were all respectful, mannerly and comfortable in their setting.

I enjoyed chatting with them. Even though few kids were there the love and respect they had for Hawkins was obvious.

As Hawkins said, “Differences are made one person at a time. When a kid trusts you he usually loves you too.”

In July 2002, they opened the first community learning center in a public housing complex in Shelby County. They called it Kids First Awareness Community Learning Center. There are rooms for reading, a math room, a gathering room and computers everywhere.

Hawkins teaches confidence, motivation, love and respect for God, fellow man and each other.

Some of Hawkins quotes are: “If it’s not yours – keep your hands off.” “Do not demand respect — earn it.” “ Learn to pray, love, forgive and keep moving forward.”

Volunteers include retired teachers, currently employed teachers, handymen, computer aides and just all kinds of useful, vital help.

Individual people, churches and businesses have donated exercise equipment, basketball goals and court, mulch, playground equipment, play areas, a portable van, books, tables, paper goods, art supplies, snacks, informative speakers — the list goes on and on. Kudos especially to Hunter Street Baptist Church.

So much of her energy is “working for her kids.” Hawkins has little time for a “private life.” She is thankful for the good health she and her husband enjoy. “Never Could Have Made It��� by Marvin Sapp is her new favorite praise song. She also enjoys jazz and going out to eat.

Kids Awareness is her passion. If you would like to volunteer and try to make a difference call Cindy at 706-9467. Their needs are many and varied. Reach out — Try!