JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) — A nonprofit in Johnson City has spent more than two decades providing an after-school safety net for children and their families, most of whom are financially insecure.
As a part of News Channel 11’s Nexstar Founder’s Day of Caring, WJHL team members will be supporting Coalition for Kids with a day of service on Friday, June 17.
The network of support that Coalition for Kids offers has helped many parents keep their jobs, for some, it has even prevented them from losing their homes.
“How we want these kids to feel when they leave here is they are loved, we are their family, and we will be here tomorrow. We will be here the next day,” said Director of Community Outreach Cindy Young.
For 22 years, Coalition for Kids has served Johnson City Schools students as a free, K-8 after-school program, shining a spotlight on children who are under-served.
“When these kids do go home, they have two stressors taken away. Homework and their bellies are full. That is very important,” said Young.
Any child can participate in C4K programming. However, Executive Director Randy Hensley says most children come from families that are experiencing financial insecurity.
“84 percent of our kids’ families earn less than $20,000 a year,” Hensley said. “If they can’t hear us because their stomach is growling, we are not gonna impact anything.”
During the summer months, Coalition for Kids operates as a day-long summer camp.
Whether after school or during summer, the intended impact is growth in more ways than one.
“Play is always oriented to something specific in impacting them socially, emotionally or spiritually,” said Hensley.
That looks like a lot of fun, but also a lot of support.
Hensley says the top priority is to provide an environment where kids feel safe and confident.
“We base the very beginning of everything we do on who we are in Christ and the idea that the way we are loved, we are called to love back,” said Hensley.
This fall, Coalition for Kids is expanding for the first time outside of the Johnson City Schools system. They will now offer services to Washington County, Tennessee students.
They plan to start in about three of the county’s schools and expand to all schools within three to four years, following the same growth they achieved in Johnson City schools.
Upon that expansion, C4K anticipates it will be serving more than 1,000 children.
“When you talk about the future growth, it is mind blowing that God has honored us in this moment because of our incredible perseverance over the last 20 years,” said Hensley.
He added the need for this kind of support in communities is great, and their expansion into Washington County is just the beginning.
“We could go anywhere. There is no place there is no need. There is a need for child caregiving after school in every community and every town in the nation,” said Hensley.
Young stressed that the organization is always in need of more volunteers. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, they have seen their typical numbers of around 900 volunteers a year drop to around 400-500.
“It is always great when a volunteer will come, donate their time and really sit down with a child and help them do their homework. That makes a difference,” said Young.
To learn more about how to volunteer or donate to Coalition for Kids, visit their website.