Seeking to meet the inner needs of inner city children in Memphis through a children’s program. This simple mission statement serves as the foundation of a program which touches the lives of school-aged children weekly as volunteers provide academic lessons, life-skill initiatives, tutoring, and assistance in completing class projects. More than that, though, the children experience love, acceptance, and a sense of belonging and glimpses of hope for the future.
FirstWorks is a non-denominational, faith-based, 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that offers this hope through their children’s program which meets during the school year on Tuesday and Thursday evenings from 6:00 until 8:00 p.m. Homeless and displaced children from three of the poorest zip codes in the nation, are referred into the program during the first or second grade by the Memphis City School system. The criteria for acceptance are children who have the academic ability to learn and excel in school but lack a support system at home.
Once a week during the school year, the children are picked up by the FirstWorks bus, brought in for a hot, nutritious meal, and then participate in activities. FirstWorks also provides back to school uniforms and backpacks with grade level school supplies, which are replenished every six weeks.
In addition to the ongoing donations that keep the program strong, at FirstWorks @ The Corners is seeking funds to hire a part-time program coordinator. “FirstWorks at The Corners” began its school year this September at Highland Heights United Methodist Church. This academic-based, after school program enrolls “at-risk” children and youth from zip codes surrounding the corner of Summer and Highland. The program meets once a week on Tuesday evenings. Their parents drop the children off at the church at 6 p.m. as the “Kitchen Angels,” adult volunteers who cook and serve dinner, greet them with warm smiles and open arms.
A nutritious home-cooked meal, fellowship and laughter around the table is followed by study time in the classroom or computer lab. Tutors, some of them Memphis City School Teachers, provide guidance, discipline and assistance with homework assignments and school projects.
Spending quality time with mature adults one-on-one provides these children, many who are categorized as “near homeless,” with role models in not only academics, but also in compassion, etiquette, and teamwork.
For the past two years, St. Luke’s United Methodist Church has donated a portion of Amy Pearson’s time to serve as the Director of FirstWorks. The time has been fruitful because of community support through funding and volunteer hours, putting FirstWorks on strong footing.
“However, Amy is needed full-time at St. Luke’s and we will need to hire a part-time program coordinator. This expense will add to our already conservative budget,” said Fred Morton, Corners director. “In order to move ahead in good faith, and before we can hire a program coordinator, we are asking for a fundraising effort now. Our goal is to raise $20,000.00, which will allow for a coordinator’s salary and positive budget to give that coordinator the tools to succeed.”
Community support can take this program into the next school year with a strong financial foundation.