In a converted restaurant in Fairmont City, a group of volunteers are working miracles, slowly, patiently, day after day.
The neighborhood surrounding the Fairmont City Christian Activity Center is 95% Hispanic, and lost its neighborhood school with the closing of the Holy Rosary School in 2009. Holy Rosary had offered a culturally-friendly educational atmosphere, as well as a social hub for after-school activities in this largely Roman Catholic community. But even prior to its closure, Holy Rosary had provided education only through eighth grade, after which Fairmont City students were bused into the Collinsville & Caseyville schools. The high school dropout rate for the Fairmont kids approached 50%, as they faced high school with below-average English proficiency, and with parents who were ill-equipped to help with homework. In addition, since their schools have no “late bus,” they are unable to participate in after-school tutoring or other activities, thereby missing more opportunities to socialize and assimilate with their classmates. Since 2009, without a neighborhood elementary school, as Fairmont kids have had to START their primary school years in an English-only educational environment, many began to flounder and fail much earlier.
Then in 2010, a group consisting of mostly retired teachers—some of them familiar with the Fairmont City situation from their experience in Collinsville & Caseyville—started the Fairmont City Christian Activity Center(FCCAC). The center is open from 4-6 p.m. Monday through Friday. Eight staff members work with 20-25 children ages 5-18, stressing academics in core subjects, with a goal that every child will graduate high school. Reading and language skills in the early grades are a particular emphasis. Volunteers also intercede with the school system, assisting parents in navigating the complex web of testing services and parent-teacher conferences. Over the past 6 years, as finances and staff expertise has allowed, the center has at times also provided snacks and recreational activities.
The results? Pat Marsh, director of the FCCAC, says that since the center opened, every high schooler enrolled there has graduated high school, and three are currently in college.
How can you help? Volunteers are always needed to help with tutoring, as well as with organizing community events such as movie nights and game nights. Church groups or individuals may volunteer for the summer free-lunch distribution in the park, or to assist with programming. This summer the FCCAC is providing Art Camp, and in years past—based on the availability and expertise of volunteers—they have also provided a cooking school, and a soccer camp. Pat Marsh shared her “wish list” for the Center:
1. Front fencing and picnic tables for an outdoor play area
2. More folding tables
3. A good copier/ printer
4. A level area with a basketball goal
6. Landscaping in front of the building
7. Waterproofing in the basement
8. …and more HELP! Volunteers could organize storage areas, assist with tutoring, and plan extracurricular/community events for families and enrichment/recreational activities for students!
If you are interested in volunteering, an education background is helpful, but not necessary. Classroom aides are also helpful to give one-on-one guidance in activities that are led by a professional teacher. Children can also benefit from interacting with volunteers who may bring a wide range of skills and learning/teaching styles to the Center.
On June 25th Restore Décor will hold a fundraiser for the FCCAC, in hopes that this important ministry will continue and thrive, helping at-risk youth to succeed. We hope you will turn out(at 223 N. Main Street, or 111 N. Second Street in Edwardsville) from 8a.m. to 3p.m. to shop for this great cause, to find out more about FCCAC, and to consider whether you have the passion and the ability to help the children of Fairmont City grow into all that God has planned for them.
For more information on the Fairmont City Christian Activity Center, check out their website at http://fairmontcitycac.org/ or contact Pat Marsh at (618)971-6371.