By: Jacqueline Miles
This summer, children from throughout the community have a place to come and enjoy a fun filled time full of games, education and just plain communication at Ebonwood Community Center. Headed by Leroy Williams, the group provides not only supervised entertainment, but they also provide free lunches to all of the 200+ children. “We have many partners that have helped us,” said Williams. “Every day that the kids come in, we give them a different experience. We capture that moment by way of taking pictures, and bringing in the outside world to them. A lot of the children that we have in our program are free program starters. And the way that it is set up, we aren’t able to take them on field trips so we try to bring the world to them as much as we possibly can.” Every day, if the parents would poll their kids, they will find out that they have learned something new.
One of the partners with Ebonwood Community Center is Oakcrest Elementary School where Ms. Linda Bonifay is the principal. “We are able to come over and use the cafeteria and we are able to use their Resource Center,” Said Williams. We really inter-twine as a partner and this gives us a chance to connect with the school system. So at the end of the summer, they are ready to hit the ground running. “We just have computer skills,” said Williams. “We have programs, which are rigorous to help them in their subjects. We don’t want to have too many rigorous activities, just something to stretch their minds.” He said. The kids also participate at the Innovation where they can build different things with Legos. “This is also an initiative that the Superintendent had during the school year and we also use that,” said Williams.
Both Williams and Commissioner May praised Principal Bonifay for her passion for keeping the school open for the summer. “When she learned of what we were doing, she instantly said ‘use the school to help with the children’. “We’ve had the Sheriff’s Department come out and bring their horses, as well as sponsoring other outdoor activities.” Said Williams.
“When I got elected, one of the things we talked about was what were we going to do for our children. Leroy was hired and we started an after school program and a summer program,” said Commissioner Lumon May. “We are running one here at Ebonwood Center and Wedgewood. Leroy , by far, has one of the largest program and a successful program. And to add to this, there is no charge. Most of our children come from poverty homes and cannot afford $65 or $100 a week. They could not afford nutritional meals. So, that’s why we started this program. We had no idea that this program would be such a success to have 200+ children. At the end of the day, when I hold Town Hall meetings, people always ask what are you going to do for the children? So Leroy also has a senior program. He’s got faith-based, senior citizens, neighborhood association; he’s partnered with the school. Now you have a hub of educational professionals, senior professional and business community-all working together,” said Commissioner May.
Williams has received $16,000 in private money to help with the summer program. “This is the first time that there has been a summer program here and I’m excited that it has gone so well.” said May. “I love community centers; I grew up in community centers. “We’ve arranged that the kids can ride the bus for free to come to the center. So if they don’t have a program in their neighborhood or they can’t afford it, they can just find a bus route and they can ride here for free.”
“This is not about Commissioner May, it’s all about the kids.”