TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTHI) - Beth Willis is doing some tidying up to rooms inside Free Life Community Church.
Next Wednesday, they'll be welcoming in kids for the start of their after school program. Organizers say the program has been operating in its current capacity for about five years.
"Oh working with these kids is my heart," said Willis, Children's Ministry Director.
Throughout the years, Willis said the program has brought her closer to local children coming from different, as well as rough backgrounds.
"I've seen so many of them that have been in tough situations that I can't even relate to," she said, "They come in and they're rough, and they just give me hard times, but by the end of the night they're letting me just hug all over them. That's why I do what I want to do, I want to help make a difference in their life."
"We have some sad stories sometimes, sometimes we have some great recoveries," said Senior Pastor Dan Willis, "We just love them and that's why we do what we do."
Kids meet once a week, every Wednesday night, at the church. There, kids can fellowship, play games, work on arts and crafts, as well as get a nutritious meal.
Using a bus, the church also offers transportation for children who may need a ride to the facility. This year, Willis said they've expanded their bus route, which now goes from 3rd Street to Fort Harrison, Fruitridge and Margaret.
"We've expanded into 3rd Street," she said, "So our goal is to hit some areas that we know that maybe other churches or facilities aren't picking the kids up. So some of our spots for pickup are the hotels on 3rd Street. Hitting some of the places that we know that the children are off and running."
"Anywhere within those areas we pick up the children, bring them in," she added, "We start usually between 6 and 6:15. We bring the kids in, 6:30 we feed them a fully nutritious meal and then beginning at 6:45 we begin the night's activities with the worship, crafts, games, and lessons. You name it, we pull it in there."
Whether the kids get bussed in or walk in, Pastor Willis says the goal is to help them walk out a better person.
"Nobody really teaches them that sometimes," he said, "Sometimes they come from good homes, sometimes they don't. We can't control whether they do or don't, but we treat everybody the same and equally."
The program is not limited to just the facility's building. Through the after-school program, Willis said they also take trips.
"We do special outings with the kids," she said, "We have roller skating trips that we take them to quarterly. In the winter time, we take them on our bus through the park to see the Christmas lights and we plan special events at the park periodically through the year."
The program also gives kids the opportunity to learn more about faith. Willis said they change their curriculum often to keep the kids interested. This year, Willis said, it's based on The Bible Project.
"Our curriculum for this year is based on The Bible Project and helping them find resources to help them when they need it most when no one is around," she said.
Organizers hope the program will continue to reach more kids, as well as build them up for a bright future through faith and love.
"We know that the Lord placed us here in this community for a reason," she said, "So it's our goal to continue to reach out, bring them in, teach them that they're loved first of all, that they have worth and that they can give worth back to the community."
The after-school program begins next Wednesday, Aug. 22nd. If you're interested in learning more about the program, you can contact the FLCC through their website, Facebook or by phone at (812) 242-9556.
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