A Small Town’s After School Ministry Thrives in New Hampshire

ABCUSA > In the Spotlight > A Small Town’s After School Ministry Thrives in New Hampshire

A Small Town’s After School Ministry Thrives in New Hampshire

A $500 Matthew 25 Grant from American Baptist Churches USA is making a big difference in the smalltown life of Whitefield, N.H., with After School Kids (ASK), an initiative of Community Baptist Church in a town with a population of 2,000.

“Our congregation is small. About 40 people attend each Sunday,” reports Susan Vigne, the director of ASK, who filed a report on the grant results. “Our membership is aging. However, in the last three years the number of children attending ASK has doubled. Some of the children come with their grandparents. Others attend with their parents. And a few children just come on their own. Our town is in the economically depressed region of Coos County, the most northern and most rural part of our state. Our church membership reflects this, although we do have members across a wide socioeconomic range.”

The grant enabled the purchase of groceries and some cooking supplies for weekly cooking projects which prepare the ASK youngsters to play a key role in planning a monthly community dinner, “We typically have 10-14 children aged 9-13 attending ASK each day,” Vigne says. “Most take part in our cooking lessons. And all the children help in planning and serving our monthly dinners, which are open to family and friends. We serve an average of 32 at these dinners.”

In addition to ASK, Community Baptist also runs a thrift store, which donates its proceeds to emergency needs in the community, mostly for fuel assistance, Vigne says. “We also administer the local food pantry and serve the community through monthly services at a local nursing home. We offer summer vacation Bible camps and sponsor additional community meals periodically throughout the year.”

“We’re very grateful for the grant,” Vigne continues. “Our original vision was to open an after -school program to meet a serious need in the community, since children in grades four through eight have no other town- or school-sponsored after school program available. We knew we wanted to meet physical, emotional, spiritual and intellectual needs of these kids, and having a regular food program as part of the after school ministry was an important step in this direction.”

“The children we serve face many challenges,” Vigne says. “All of them face the challenge of living in a rural, depressed area with limited recreational and enrichment opportunities. ASK is helping these children and their families meet the need for safe, reliable and consistent after school care.”

Grandmother Cindy LaFlam explains that ASK “is this grandmother’s answer to many prayers. Each weekday, my granddaughter and grandson attend ASK, where they go outside and play, sit at the table with their peers and friends and break bread and have ‘snack chat’. They talk about words from the Bible that they try to live out each day. I can stop in and see what the children are doing, and I am invited to their Final Friday Feast each month, in which they, with other children, decide what they will have for a menu, prepare the food for the feast, set the tables, welcome and serve the guests and clean up afterward.”

“The staff and volunteers genuinely love each of the children,” LaFlam says. “They share in their good days and support them when their day is rough. My grandchildren, as well as some of the other children, do not come from a financially stable household, but they are able to come and be spiritually, nutritionally, and affectionately cared for each day. Their parents do not have to worry about the financial burden and/or safety of their children, as they know who is caring for them.”

The Matthew 25 Grant initiative, sponsored by ABCUSA and the Board of General Ministries, is funded by a generous, anonymous donor whose goal is to meet the needs of “housing, feeding, education and health with regard to the less fortunate.” The application process for a Matthew 25 Grant is structured to help small ministries with limited staff time. For more information on the grant and application process visit www.abc-usa.org/matthew25/