If you pay attention to the news coming out of Toronto, specifically in the Jane and Finch neighborhood, you hear about gun violence, gangs and drugs. You also hear of problems with police, poverty and petty crime. This is our neighborhood. Amidst the crime in this diverse community are kids. Kids who like to have fun. They like to hang out with friends and enjoy video games, sports, crafts and food. These kids participate in The Salvation Army Yorkwoods Community Church Kid-Z-Own program.
It’s 3:15 and the first two kids trickle in the door of the church’s daily Kid-Z-Own after school program. They are technically a few minutes early and are happy to have time to themselves in the computer and games room. Over the next 30 minutes the remainder of the group arrives and Yorkwoods is filled with the noise of children glad to be finished another day of school.
Now it’s snack time and they have opportunity to complete homework before participating in the day’s activities. Activities include Bible lessons, sports, arts and crafts, computer usage, group games, baking and occasionally special guests.
The kids you find here range in age from 6 -12 and are boys and girls from ethnically diverse backgrounds. Some of these kids have nowhere to go after school and the program provides a safe and positive environment for them until their parents are home from work.
With only one paid staff member, an important piece of the program is the volunteers. We have many high school students who come in to help. We also get support from some parents. The local police division has fully endorsed our program as a positive initiative for the community and sends volunteers when they can. The police also operate a toy drive for us at Christmas.
The success of this program is seen in the positive reactions from families and local schools. Kids often arrive at the doors on their days off. They love to be here. Most of the kids we see during the week are not directly connected to our church family in terms of attendance on Sundays, but are a direct part of the ministry at Yorkwoods. This program attracts community families and the message of the gospel is clearly presented. Right from the start families know that Bible lessons and our Christian faith are part of this program.
Our desire at Yorkwoods is to provide a safe place for children and their families. We provide hope amidst all the negativity that gets highlighted in our neighborhood. Hearing about the light of Christ gives these kids a more positive glow.