By CHAMBLYN DUDLEY
CARTERSVILLE, Ga. – Hands of Christ After School Program in Cartersville is a nonprofit organization that provides tutoring and enrichment for underserved children in the kindergarten through third grade.
The program is located at First Presbyterian Church on Main Street in Cartersville, and operates Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays from 2:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. Students who attend Cartersville City Public Schools are transported to the church for after school, and shuttled home by one of the Hands of Christ buses.
The staff at Hands of Christ is made up of over 20 certified teachers and para-professionals, who provide students with homework help, fun activities, nutritional meals, and outdoor games.
Jennifer Belisle is one of those teachers that have devoted her time and energy to helping the children at Hands of Christ.
“It is so rewarding to watch these children grow and improve in every aspect of their lives,” Belisle said. “I strive to show my students that learning can be fun and encourage them to connect with their peers in a healthy, meaningful way.”
Relief for Parents
Families who enroll their children in the after-school program benefit from a wide range of services. Despite the desire to help their children with schoolwork, many of the parents who use Hands of Christ speak very little English, making it incredibly difficult to offer the necessary academic support.
They may also struggle financially and be unable to afford the typical costs of tutoring and after-school care. As a nonprofit organization, Hands of Christ only requires a $50 annual enrollment fee, which is a mere fraction of what it costs to hire a personal tutor. Registration inquiries can be made on the Hands of Christ official website (www.handsofchrist.weebly.com).
Other parents may need to work late hours to support their families and cannot return home in time to cook dinner. Hands of Christ provide nutritional, three-course meals daily and ensure that children have a safe environment to stay, while their parents are away at work.
In addition to providing after-school care, Hands of Christ also holds week-long summer camps that children can attend at no additional cost. Each week consists of its own unique theme and exciting excursions for the kids.
The summer camp themes this year include: Vacation Bible School G-Force, Party in the USA, and Magnificent Masterpieces. Among the field trips that have been planned so far are visits to the U.S certified air carrier Phoenix Air group in Cartersville, and the High Museum of Art in Atlanta.
Assistant Director Araceli Munoz said providing the summer camps has made the biggest difference in enrollment numbers each year and has helped raise awareness about the program to the rest of the community.
“The kids return to school in the fall excited to tell their friends how much fun they had with Hands of Christ over summer break,” Munoz said. “Their teachers also see how much improvement they have made academically and start recommending our program to other families who might benefit from our services.”
Giving Back to Your Community
Not every child has someone in their life that pushes them to grow and achieve success. Children in your community need your support to live a happy, meaningful life. Fortunately, there are multiple opportunities available for you to reach out and help them through Hands of Christ After School Program.
With enrollment numbers growing rapidly, Assistant Director Araceli Munoz says the program will be adding additional classrooms as of August 2015, and opening its doors to fourth grade students as well.
“More and more families are coming to us asking for help. Support from the community would allow us to do even more for them,” Munoz said.
You can volunteer at Hands of Christ anytime from 2:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays. The program takes place at the First Presbyterian Church on Main Street in Cartersville.
You can also show your support for the program by attending Mexican Mondays at El Charro in Cartersville. The Mexican restaurant allows 10 percent of your total bill on Monday nights to go toward supporting the children at Hands of Christ.
The Boys & Girls Club of Bartow County is also dedicated to serving youth in your area. Volunteering at the after-care center can make a huge difference in a child’s life. You can find more information on Facebook.
The Boys & Girls Club will be sponsoring the Cartersville Century Bike Ride on June 28 this year. All proceeds from the event will benefit the children of the program and you can register for the ride at (www.cartersvillecentury.org).
To make a donation to the Boys & Girls Club of America, please visit (www.greatfutures.org).