May 172013
Jean Little helps the children with their after-school work at the Little Willie Center on Thursday, May 9, 2013.   (Aileen Devlin/ The Daily  Reflector)

Jean Little helps the children with their after-school work at the Little Willie Center on Thursday, May 9, 2013. (Aileen Devlin/ The Daily Reflector)


Friday, May 17, 2013

A shining source of hope and positive child development for 23 years, the Little Willie Center after-school program stands tall as one of this city’s most recognized faith-based support networks for families in need. And at the same time, the center is itself in the perpetual position of reaching out to the greater community for financial and volunteer support.

All this week, the center’s community development group has been hosting prayer vigils, health screenings and other events designed to further illuminate its mission and draw support. Those with the time and means to participate and help should seize the opportunity to do so.

The center has expanded its focus in recent years to include education service and workforce development for adults trying to improve their lives and the lives of their children. But the center’s long-standing core mission of “addressing the needs of latchkey children” in the West Greenville community has not changed since Renee Arrington founded the organization in 1990.

The center will provide its services at no cost, although parents are asked to volunteer and help in other ways. Instead of paid staff, the center uses volunteers from the community, East Carolina University and other groups.

“The community really owns the Little Willie Center,” said Marvin Arrington, chairman of the center’s board of directors.

After many years of operating out of a small house on West Fifth Street, the center is now located in the nearby Lucille W. Gorham Intergenerational Center, where it offers summer camps in addition to its after-school and other programs. While the larger location has allowed for some expansion in services, the center can serve only so many children at a time. That number is at 40 now, but Marvin Arrington will tell you there are always many more waiting for a spot to become available.

It should be noted that the Little Willie Center has been an inspiration to other community outreach programs that provide similar services to children and families in need. The Building Hope Community Life Center, Third Street Community Center, Operation Sunshine, the Boys & Girls Club of Pitt County, and numerous churches and other groups all do wonderful work deserving of support.

The Little Willie Center is certainly not the only local effort working to help today’s at-risk children develop into tomorrow’s positive role models and community leaders. But it should continue to stand as a positive role model for how that work can and should be done.

via The Daily Reflector.


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