One of the grant recipients was the Weirton Christian Center of Weirton, West Virginia, who received $5,000 towards their Journey Transportation Project. The Weirton Christian Center serves low-income families in the area, providing clothing, meals, gift cards for groceries for families in need. They also provide an after school program, educational assistance programs, a free preschool and transportation.
Our guest blogger this week is Kim Weaver, Executive Director of Weirton Christian Center. Kim explains the reasons behind the ongoing poverty in the area and why the Center’s services are essential for empowering children and their families.
The Weirton Christian Center began in 1917, the same year that Weirton Steel began. There were 34 different ethnic groups that came to work in the mill and the Christian Center was the place where they learned English, gained citizenship, and met with friends. Children received immunizations and programs included a basketball league, dance lessons, bible studies, kindergarten and more. So many of our friends at the All Saints Greek Orthodox Church in Weirton tell stories of growing up at the Center and all the ways it meant so much to them.
Times have changed in Weirton. The mill has gone from 13,000 employees to less than 1,000. There are more unemployed than ever and the big industry of gaming has taken over and many times is the reason for ongoing poverty. Now, the Center is home to a free pre-school for ages three to five and a free after school program for K-12th graders. The children arrive by school bus and are given a healthy snack as well as homework help and tutoring each day. Programs include literacy, fitness, music, sign language to praise songs, manners, leadership, and many more. They are provided with dinner three times each week and Blessing Bags of food for long weekends they are not in school with both breakfast and lunch.
Our donation room provides free school supplies at the beginning of the school year and all year long. We have new and used children’s clothing and shoes, and some household items for families. Our God’s Helping Hand Fund provides for emergency utility assistance, and other areas that affect our families.
Project Journey is about empowering people- especially children- through the Journey of Life. Through these programs we provide training in life skills and transportation. We offer free transportation for pre-school classes and transportation by Center vans home for the children who come to the Center after school. We have two vans, one 8-passenger and one 15-passenger that take the children home each night. Our 21-passenger van can only be used when we have a driver with a CDL license. The vans take two trips each and sometimes more to get all the children home, all over town. We also provide transportation for 12 children to and from the Christian school in Paris, Pennsylvania. Families ask for rides to work, the grocery store, doctor and dentist appointments, school sporting events and practices. Since we have provided scholarships for Upward Basketball, we also take those children to their practices throughout the week, since most have no other way of getting there.
Thanks to the National Philoptochos Society Children’s Medical Fund, our vehicles will continue to be of service to the underprivileged children and families in our community.
-Kim Weaver, Executive Director
Weirton Christian Center