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Church sponsors program to help local children

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By John Barnhart

    From building rockets to doing homework, sewing to flying kites, children in the Thaxton area are staying busy after school thanks to a local church.

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    Epworth United Methodist Church started the after-school program at the beginning of the school year for children in that area.
     It’s drawing an average of 25 to 30 children every Wednesday afternoon. The program, which draws home-schooled students as well        as  those  from  Thaxton Elementary School, is held at the Thaxton Community Center, right across Thaxton School Road from the school. The Community Center has a playground for outside activity as well as a large indoor area.
    The program runs from 2:30 until 5:15 p.m. and starts with a period of supervised play. There is also time for the adult and teen volunteers to help the children with their homework. If the children say that they have no homework that day—a story viewed with some skepticism by the adults—learning games are organized. The program includes 15 minutes of devotions followed by an hour to work on projects.
    The projects are divided into those that would interest girls and those that would interest boys. There are enough volunteers to have one teen or adult working with each child during project time.
    One recent project involved building water rockets from two-liter soft drink bottles. The bottles were filled with water and then pressurized with an air pump. They actually worked.
    “These went as high as the trees are tall,” said the Rev. Joe Shoop, the church’s pastor.
    Now, they are building simple small rockets powered by commercial model rocket engines. Shoop has obtained a plan for the rockets allowing them to be built at virtually no cost beyond buying the engines.
    The rockets are educational; the children learn why the rocket works. Shoop said that one boy took his water rocket home and explained to his parents how it operated.
    Building kites was an early project. The children built and flew them, and explained why the kites work.
    The girls had a sewing project. They made a skirt for themselves and a matching dress for an 18-inch doll. They have also learned how to bake cookies and are currently learning to crochet.
    Devotions revolve around a Christian life-skill.
    “This month, it’s patience,” said Shoop.
    Along with activity, the children get a snack.
    “We try to do something relatively healthy,” commented Shoop.
    This is the first year that the church has conducted the program, which is open to all children in the community.