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Stephens City churches to offer new kids program

Just4KidsZ! will be operated by three Stephens City churches 

By Kim Walter

Due to a partnership among three Stephens City churches, children attending three of Frederick County's elementary schools will be able to participate in a new after-school program.

The program, Just4Kidz!, will operate from 4 to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, and is open to students at Bass-Hoover, Armel and Middletown elementary schools.

The program will be held at Stephens City Mennonite Church, 5590 Valley Pike. It will open on Monday.

Trinity Lutheran and Stephens City United Methodist Church are the other two churches sponsoring the program. Volunteers, who will help run the after-school activities, are coming from each of the three churches.

The cost for enrollment is $5 per day, with a $3 fee for additional children from the same family.

According to the program's promotional materials, Just4Kidz! can, at least initially, support up to 20 students in a "faithful, caring and safe environment where children can learn, play and grow."

Start-up costs for the all-volunteer effort are being funded by the three participating churches. The program receives no governmental support. All funds raised will be applied directly to program needs.

Just4Kidz! volunteers will have passed background checks and be certified in child abuse prevention training. While primarily a social and academic enrichment program, there will be time for daily devotions as well. Participating children will engage in periods of recreation, tutoring and homework completion, enrichment and fine arts, and receive a nutritious snack provided by the participating congregations.

The program will follow the Frederick County Schools calendar for holidays, inclement weather, and other events. Students will be provided transportation to the Mennonite church.

In addition to the assistance provided the children, participating parents will also attend complimentary "informational" dinners once a quarter with speakers from the community dealing with topics such as good parenting, childhood nutrition, and financial management.

The Rev. Jeff Butcher of the Stephens City United Methodist Church said his church's experience running a preschool for almost 30 years will help with program logistics.

According to Butcher, there are still spaces available in the program. He added that students and parents do not have to be a member at any of the participating churches in order to enroll.

"We're really just trying to reach out to our community," he said.

In planning the program, Butcher said the area pastors realized the importance of being in ministry with Stephens City children. The religious leaders felt that kids could benefit from something positive to do after school, while still receiving educational help.

The program director, Jacquetta Owen, is a retired teacher from the Frederick County Public School system, Butcher added.

"I do think it's significant to point out that these three denominations are coming together," he said. "It's easy to do your own thing and get caught up in supporting your own congregation."

"But we've decided to take a broader view ... these are all God's children, and we need to work together as Christians to support them."

Parents interested in enrolling their child in program can contact Just4Kidz! through email at just4kidz22655@gmail.com, or by calling 540-532-4244.

Contact staff writer Kim Walter at 540-465-5137 ext. 191, or kwalter@nvdaily.com

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