YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD HEROES: Wesley Chapel Mission Center; the heart of a village | Features
OVER-THE-RHINE, OH (FOX19) - There is an old saying that, "It takes a village to raise a child." Children of all backgrounds need and deserve a solid foundation to set them off on their life journeys.
Wesley Chapel Mission Center in Over-the-Rhine is providing this service to a large group of children that otherwise may not have had this chance.
Operations inside the center start with the community outside.
Becky Costello, Wesley Director since February 2005 recounts becoming involved with the sometimes troubled streets at East McMicken," When I first came here, I met with a lot of people in the community. We really wanted to be sure that we met the needs that were here. We didn't just want to come in and say, this is what you need." It's more about saying, what would enhance your lives."
That enhancement begins at 2:30pm Monday through Thursday as the children grades K-8 come to the center straight from neighboring schools.
Paid and volunteer staff helps the children with their homework. They also do board games, worksheets, hands on art and bible lesson with music and prayer.
"I'm sure because I live in the suburbs many things that my children faced these children also faced... But they face them on a deeper more challenging level. Typically, they don't have the support mechanisms they my children have. We find that for the most part these children do not have that, so we try to be that for them."
"We really want to build community here."
Costello says that while Wesley is a community, they cannot replace the importance of family at home.
"We are not trying to replace the families, but we are trying to help the families reach their dreams for their children."
The neighborhood school Rothenberg Preparatory Academy works closely with Becky and Wesley employees and volunteers to make sure that the children who come to the center are getting an equal dose of education and enrichment.
One of the enrichment lessons, Becky took from her days before Wesley. She teaches music classes. They also teach art, hands-on science and life skills.
About 50 percent of the children attend neighborhood school Rothenburg Elementary, about 25 percent from Saint Francis Seraph at Vine and Liberty Streets. The other 25 percent is a mix of other charter and area public schools.
Becky has noticed a shift in parent involvement at the center. “I’m seeing not just mothers but fathers and uncles. They meet the children at school and walk them down to the center."
In between lessons the children eat a snack, and Becky takes a hands-on approach for making sure the children have a nice meal.
Wesley is part of a program at Panera Bread that donates their unsold pastries from the day.
Becky goes to her neighborhood Panera location every Sunday night to pick up the left over bread and pastries from that day. That food is used at the center for snack time all week. The center also provides fruit and milk for the children.
A combination of donations and grants keep services at Wesley Chapel Misson Center operating year after year. They have not asked for or accepted any government assistance. A high school program at the center is scheduled to begin in January. And despite their surroundings, the staff at Wesley will continue to leave the door open for anyone who needs to come in.
"We don't ever turn anybody away. Somehow we find the room and we find staff." Costello continues, "We just don't turn them away, we can't. We feel that we are unique in this neighborhood and so we don't like to think about the alternative."
Costello, who studied Criminal Justice and Psychology at the University of Cincinnati, does not believe that these children must accept a certain fate.
"That alternative may be just hanging out on the streets. These are not safe streets. We know that when we are not here and many times when we are here, the drug dealers hang out right outside our door.
"Our children walk from school and have to encounter drug deals and prostitutes. And sometimes there is violence. So, we have to be here for them."
A nice neighborhood playground stands parallel from Wesley’s front door and is surrounded by an environment that leaves little to the imagination. But Becky says that her job and the jobs of those at the center are worth the possible hazard.
“I have people ask me about my safety. Of course I have days when there is discomfort and concern but what I always think is, they are there and they do not have a choice that they are there. So it seems like a small sacrifice on my part to come out of my comfort zone and help them find value in themselves, find purpose in their lives and seek for academic success."
If you want to contribute to Wesley Chapel Mission Center and their after-school programs, donations are accepted via phone call at 513-721-6204, email at firstname.lastname@example.org , or go the website http://www.wcmconline.org and there is an account set up through PayPal.
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