The 8th Street Community Church, located on the 3700 block of Eighth Street in Hunting Park, is full of laughter on weekday afternoons. Pastor Andy Kim runs an after-school program for the local children.
“This program has been in place for five years now. It really helps the children,” Kim said.
Helping children is the main goal of the church’s after-school program. There are five volunteers who help the children with their homework, all while keeping them safe and off the streets. Keith Joseph has volunteered at the church for four years.
“We keep them out of the street. We keep them in here and send them home when it gets dark. we keep them safe basically,” Joesph said.
All of the children attend Bayard Taylor School, an elementary school just a few blocks from the church. After school, they all walk over to the church for two hours of after school care.
The program keeps the children coming back every year. Nevah Carter, 11, took a year off from the program after third grade, but said she had to come back.
“I missed my friends. I have a lot of friends here,” Carter said.
Friendships are made through helping each other with school work. At one table, the children sat in a circle and went over the times tables with one another. At a different table, two girls sat making paper hearts and cards for their friends for Valentine’s Day. Saniya Torres said she loves going to the after school program everyday.
“I really like drawing and painting,” Torres said as she cut the construction paper into hearts.
Kim gets involved with the children’s learning and games when he is present. He is what the kids call a “Pictionary Master.” He runs the game as the kids play boys against girls.
“My favorite part is playing Pictionary. I like playing games,” Dymirr Culverth, 10, said.
The after-school program relies on the help of the volunteers and is funded by donations. The church has received donations such as two computers, food, books and games.
“We need donations to keep the program going. I wish I could pay my volunteers, but there is just not enough money to do it,” Kim said.
“I like looking out for the kids and everything. I can go get a job and get paid, but I like to distribute to my community,” Joseph said.
The 8th Street Community Church also has a service every Sunday, Bible studies on Wednesday nights and community meetings on Thursdays.