Community Kids Get New Home

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“Sabrina, would you get Bubba some orange juice.”

“Let’s go brush your teeth.”

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Four-year-old Lizbeth holds very still while Marcy Rogers administers the washcloth. Some 15 to 25 of Rogers’ Payson Community Kids join her for breakfast and church on Sunday mornings.

“Gabriel, do you want some cereal?”

Sunday mornings are chaotic at the new home of Payson Community Kids on W. Wade Lane, as Marcy Rogers and friends get the 15 to 25 young people who show up ready for church. But while it all seems to unfold haphazardly, Sunday after Sunday those who show up are washed, dressed, fed and taken to Payson United Methodist or another area church on time.

Most important, the children who show up are getting the love and attention they need to grow and thrive attention that isn’t always available at home.

Before Rogers bought the 28-year-old house on Wade, she ran the program out of her two-bedroom apartment on Bonita and used Payson Town Hall for the Tuesday evening enrichment and counseling classes the children attend each week.

The apartment was a tight fit, and management didn’t always appreciate the extra traffic caused by a couple dozen children.

“One of the bedrooms and bathrooms was theirs,” Rogers said. “Their clothes were there for when they came over. But it was really hard on me because by the time we ate and they left, I was beat and the apartment was a mess. The kids are really good about helping clean up, but sometimes they want to help more than I can take help.

“The apartment people didn’t really like me having all the kids over either. One time there were 18 bikes parked outside.”

Rogers has had her eye on the house on Wade for several years. She repeatedly asked the owner, longtime Payson resident Everett Jackson, to sell it to her.

As it became more house than Jackson wanted, he finally agreed. A large, split-level home with a separate downstairs area that backs up to the trailer parks where many of her children live, it was the perfect answer.

“Here, I can just go upstairs and leave it for the volunteers or go back later,” Rogers said. “I can separate it pretty good.”

On Sunday mornings, children begin trickling in about 9 a.m. On this particular Sunday, Rogers is assisted by volunteer Terry Nelson; Sabrina Johnson, a 13-year-old member of the group who loves to help out with the younger children; and Mel Munchinsky, minister of Payson United Methodist Church.

“Their van is kind of on the fritz and probably isn’t going to be fixed because it has over 200,000 miles on it,” Munchinsky said. “I just come over between services to help with the transportation.”

While the children usually attend Munchinsky’s church, which provides a special service for them, attendance at other churches is included on a rotating basis.

As it gets closer to time to leave for church, several lines have formed. In one, children wait patiently for a glass of juice; in another, lip gloss is being applied to the girls; in a third, Rogers is washing faces.

Jessie, a three-year-old, gets her face washed and then gets back in line to have it washed again and again.

“She just loves the attention,” Rogers said.

Payson Community Kids was founded by Rogers when she moved to Payson six years ago after organizing a similar group in Tucson. Because she is the town’s housing and redevelopment coordinator, she enlisted the aid of the community development department and other town staff members.

“Their support was instrumental in getting this program up and running,” Rogers said. “Town Hall was brand new and they let us serve the kids food there and change diapers, but what we really needed was a home environment.”

After operating for several years under the nonprofit umbrella of Rim Country Volunteers, the group qualified as a nonprofit in its own right last year.

This means donations can now be made directly to the Payson Community Kids.

Currently some 50 kids with a variety of needs, ranging in age from 18 months to 14 years, belong to the group.

“Last Christmas we weren’t nonprofit yet, so all December we didn’t raise any money,” Rogers said. “We could really use some help with Christmas this year. We need coats, shoes, socks and pants.

“We can also use food for our classes and food for Sundays. We need juice, milk or bread. We go through a lot of food.”

Because Rogers likes to take the children out to lunch after church once a month, restaurant coupons are also welcome.

“When we take 20 kids out to eat, it costs $100,” she said.

Birthdays are also celebrated each month, so Rogers can use donations of birthday presents and “activity stuff” for the birthday parties and for the weekly classes.

“People have been so wonderful, from the staff at town hall and Donn Morris who teaches art classes, to the people who anonymously drop something off and I never even get their names,” she said.

Jackson, “who has to be in his 90s,” put a new cooler on the house for Rogers after trying to fix the old one for several days. Her 81-year-old father drives over from Cottonwood to help too.

But Rogers and her program are getting plenty of help from younger generations as well.

The police and fire departments provide assistance, as do many of the service organizations in town.

And then there are the individual contributions by people like Melissa Peters. The local artist who painted the mural in the children’s area of the new Payson Public Library, Peters is working on two murals one for boys and one for girls at Rogers’ new home. She’s letting the children decide what they want in their murals.

As the new home of the Payson Community Kids unfolds through the generosity of a supportive and caring community, Rogers says the bottom line for her and the others who are making her dream a reality is simple.

“It’s fun, fun, fun and a lot of people help to make it happen. It’s just a real joy to be able to help.”

How to help

Payson Community Kids can always use more help.

Donations of clothing, bicycles, toiletries and food can be dropped off at the Community Development Building at Town Hall. Checks made out to Payson Community Kids can also be dropped off or mailed to Marcy Rogers, Payson Town Hall, 303 N. Beeline Highway, Payson 85541. And, of course, volunteers are always needed.

For more information on how you can help, call Rogers at 474-5242, extension 2269.

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