Last-minute funding saves SAFE BASE for summer

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March 21, 2011 - 12:00 AM

As of Tuesday, the summer SAFE BASE program is a go.
For Angela Henry, director of the after-school program, it might mean a good night’s sleep.
Henry said the free summer program means the continuation of many of the program’s current activities. Of particular importance is the work students have begun in the Wayne Garrett Memorial Children’s Garden.
“I was losing sleep fearing that students wouldn’t get to see the results of all the hard work they’re putting into the garden now,” she said.
A decision last Monday night by Thrive Allen County to give $2,800 for the program’s transportation needs helped cap the amount needed to fund three weeks of the program — one week shy of normal.
If a request to Cox Communications for $4,000 is successful, SAFE BASE can continue a full four weeks, beginning June 6.
The total budget for the summer program is $42,897 for three weeks; $56,896 for four weeks.
Henry leaves no leaf unturned in her search for funds.
City, county, school district and federal funds have been tapped, as well as those of in-kind services and from private trusts and grants.
A little bit here, a little bit there, it all adds up to an enriching experience for local youths age kindergarten to fifth grade.

DURING this school year, SAFE BASE has 192 elementary students enrolled in its free after-school program that runs from 3:15 to 5:15 Monday through Thursday. At the middle school about 60 students participate in enrichment classes. After this week’s spring break a new slate of classes will be offered including guitar lessons, cooking lessons, a class on leadership, a physical fitness class using the Wii game and a crafts class.
Always on tap are tutors provided by SAFE BASE to help students with their studies.
At the high school, instructor Deena Powelson works with students before school and Kim Bruner with students after school. On Monday nights, Marvin Smith conducts a study time specifically geared for students studying chemistry and other sciences, again, provided through SAFE BASE funds.
Reduced funds have meant a curtailment of certain services, despite a growing need.
Mental health services are needed at all three levels, Henry said.
Currently only the elementary after-school program receives funding for a social worker. A $10,000 grant brings in Carrie Fitzmaurice, a licensed master social worker, Chanute, four afternoons a week to work with SAFE BASE students.
The most prevalent problem among the troubled youths is the ability to manage their anger, Henry said.
Fitzmaurice works with the children in small groups and discusses things like how to make friends, the importance of showing respect to adults and figures of authority, and issues that come from divorced parents or perhaps living in foster care.
“These are big problems facing our youth every day,” Henry said. “One dysfunctional child can do a lot of damage to a classroom. Carrie helps these children cope with their anger so they can focus on things like learning and having good fun.”
Henry maintained social workers in each school would help alleviate the many burdens teachers and administrators bear from children who come from dysfunctional families.

HENRY DOESN’T like to dwell on the numbers, except that they show in stark relief how needy the local school district is when it comes to reaching the disadvantaged.
“We’ve been called the ‘Appalachia of the Midwest,’” she said.
Nearly one in four, 23.5 percent, children in Allen County live in poverty. Of the state’s 105 counties, only five have more children living in poverty.
For USD 257, that means 58 percent qualify for free and reduced-priced meals. Of those, 48 percent qualify for free meals.
At Lincoln Elementary, 69.2 percent qualify for free and reduced-priced meals.
Henry uses these figures when she applies for funds from charitable organizations.
For the past two years the Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City has provided the bulk of the funding for the after-school program. In 2009-10 the Kansas City-based foundation gave $135,000. For this school year, HCFGKC gave $168,351.
The numbers are so critical to the program’s survival that Henry can rattle them off just as easily as spelling her name.
A bare-bones SAFE BASE —  minus the summer program, the dental screenings and the mental services — can operate on $200,000 a year.
She won’t know until early June whether the Health Care Foundation will carry the after-school program another year.
“You can’t keep going back to the same well,” she said about repeat requests. “And some of those wells are drying up.”
At any one time Henry and her assistant, Eileen Wille, have at least two grant requests in motion.
The program is now in its 11th year.

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