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Neighborhood Center is Mayfest benefactor

May 17, 2008|By MARLO BARNHART

HAGERSTOWN - Original artwork painted by youngsters was displayed on easels around the veranda of St. John's Episcopal Church Friday night as patrons of the fourth annual Mayfest sampled wine and hors d'oeuvres before dinner.

One child's self-portrait was of a fuzzy blue monster.

"He saw himself as a fuzzy blue monster, so that's what he painted," said Jill Kriss, director of the Hagerstown Neighborhood Center, the designated recipient of this year's Mayfest proceeds.

Since the first of the year, the center has operated an afternoon arts program at the Memorial Recreation Center on North Street.

"I just came on board in April," Kriss said. "We've been averaging between 12 to 15 kids. It's been a lot of fun."

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The center is open to children from kindergarten to fourth grade, and Kriss said some fifth- and sixth-graders also are going to the center.

The center's current hours are Thursday and Friday from 4 to 5 p.m. This summer, the center will be open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to noon.

Planning for the center began in 2005, said Bill Alexander, who has been working on the project since the beginning with Bill Price.

Alexander is a member of St. John's Episcopal Church, while Price is associated with Trinity Lutheran Church. Between the two congregations, the Hagerstown Neighborhood Center - a nonprofit corporation - was established.

"We didn't want to duplicate existing services - we are not in competition with anyone else," Alexander said. The center has worked with other agencies that also work with at-risk children.

The children involved in the center are writing a book about "me" that will be completed before the school year ends, Alexander said.

Computer skills are being shared by volunteers, and students at Mercersburg (Pa.) Academy have been performing community service at the center, Alexander said.

"Long term, we see a truly neighborhood center for children through senior citizens," said the Rev. Scott Bellows, pastor of St. John's Episcopal Church.

Signed and numbered prints by local artist Ben Jones, two tickets to a Washington Redskins game and a $75 gift certificate to the Airport Inn were raffled during Friday night's event.

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