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Church to start after-school program

August 13, 2003|by MARLO BARNHART

marlob@herald-mail.com

WILLIAMSPORT - Already a bustling child care hub serving as many as 200 children from age 2 through fifth grade, Rehoboth United Methodist Church is taking on a new challenge later this month.

"We will be starting Kids for C.H.R.I.S.T on Aug. 25 for those in grades 6-8 on a year-round basis," said Wendi Starleper, after-school program coordinator at Rehoboth.

As a result, middle-school students with time before and after school will have a place to go, Starleper said.

In the summer, the program will expand to all day for that age group, she said.

"At the public schools, there is a program for that age, but it is only in operation during the school year," Starleper said. "Parents of our current fifth-graders were asking us to start one that would be all year."

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The Rehoboth staff initially put ads in the newspaper and got some calls. Now, the news is being spread by word-of-mouth, Starleper said.

"The summer program will be open to kids from anywhere, but during the school year, we are limited to kids who attend Williamsport schools since we only have bus transportation access with those schools," Starleper said.

Why the need for a program for this age group? Having youngsters left on their own all summer while both parents work is not an ideal situation, Starleper said.

"We will have the older kids on the lower level of the church building where they can access our computers, the Internet, and play games, etc.," she said. "We're hoping people will donate games - board games and computer games."

Summer activities will take advantage of the nearness of Byron Park, which is just one block from the church. There also will be opportunities for field trips, Starleper said.

"They can do their homework during the school year," she said.

Starleper, 26, has worked at Rehoboth for five years. The daughter of Darlene and David Starleper, she is a graduate of Boonsboro High School and Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, Va., where she earned her degree in early childhood education.

She joins director Erica Fleming, assistant director Alice Johnson and a regular staff of 16 to 17. The after-school staff consists of another six or seven people during the school year, and that number goes up to nine in the summer.

There typically are 120 to 130 youngsters in the 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday day care for 2-4 year olds. Another 60 to 70 in the kindergarten through fifth-grade group participate in the after-school groups, and that increases to 90 in the summer, Starleper said.

The center provides two snacks a day while parents pack children's lunches.

Bev Carper is the mother of 7-year-old Zachary Robertson, a student at Rehoboth Day Care Center. Carper, who is on staff at Rehoboth, said she is glad that the center will have a program for her son when he reaches middle-school age.

"It's safer to have them here than at home," especially in the sixth- through eighth-grade ages, Carper said.

Starleper figures on having room for about 15 to 20 youngsters the first year. Acceptance will be on a first-come, first-served basis.

Rehoboth Pastor James Swecker said that in the 13 years it has been open, the day care center's aim has been to serve the community.

"We hire good teachers and let them do what they do," Swecker said. "They are spiritually-grounded people who help us provide a Christian environment here."

A "graduate" of the center is Chris Swecker, the pastor's son, who now works on staff.

"I am going to be a youth pastor, so this is great training for me," said the 16-year-old Williamsport High School senior who plans to attend Eastern University in St. Davids, Pa., after graduation.

For more information on any of the Rehoboth Day Care Center programs, call 301-223-6335. Questions about the new age group should be directed to Starleper.

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