For Hub City Times
MARSHFIELD — “When I go to his house, I feel so smart,” one former member of the Spencer Kids Group told his mother after spending time with his program mentor. A few months before, the member’s mother saw him longingly watching children toss a ball while he was playing alone. It was then she knew he needed a friend.
“The Spencer Kids Group was a way for my son to make needed friends and to find positive peer mentors during his afterschool hours,” the mother said.
An anonymous Marshfield Clinic Health System employee nominated the Spencer Kids Group for Security Health Plan’s monthly Employee-Driven Corporate Giving Program. Security is investing $1,000 in the Spencer Kids Group, which offers safe afterschool activities and a full meal to children ages 6 to 18 in the Spencer area at no cost.
“Age and good behavior are our only requirements,” said agency director Erica Schober.
The program was opened 20 years ago to keep Spencer youth off the streets and out of trouble during their unsupervised hours.
“We don’t have that problem anymore, but I wouldn’t have believed the need before I began working here,” Schober said. “There are so many young people who would go home to an empty house after school without the program and many who rely on the homework help and full meal we offer.”
The Kids Group has helped 180 members over the past year and serves 30 to 40 youth on a typical evening.
The Spencer Kids Group offers age-appropriate social events, mentors, a Youth Center where members learn special talents from volunteers and staff such as making ceramics or playing guitar, the Spencer Homework Improvement Program (SHIP) for students in first through fifth grades, and a summer recreation program for a fee. Volunteer SHIP tutors assist members with their homework or help them practice reading, math, and spelling when they do not have any assignments.
The Spencer Kids Group has also partnered with the Spencer Police and Fire departments to ensure members view the city’s social servants as friends and trusted adults they can turn to for help. Police and fire department staff join members in a game of kickball or basketball once a month.
The Spencer Kids Group relies on its volunteers, fundraisers, the United Way, and grant awards.
“We operate on an exceptionally small budget, but you learn to make every penny stretch as far as it will go, especially when it’s for these kids,” said Schober.
Security Health Plan’s donation will help support the Spencer Kids Group Youth Center.
Every month, Security Health Plan invests $1,000 as part of its Employee-Driven Corporate Giving campaign. Marshfield Clinic Health System employees are encouraged to nominate an organization that makes a positive difference in the community.