When Santa is making out his naughty/nice list this year, the 50 children who hang out after school at Payson Community Kids will be on the nice side. In order for the program to function, it has to be that way.
"There's no arguing and no time for misbehavior," said Payson Community Kids director Marcy Rodgers.
If a child's behavior does not turn around to a smile and good manners the first time they are asked, they go home.
When they learn good manners, they are welcomed back.
Toddlers to age 12 attend the after-school and Sunday program that is all about caring and sharing and learning.
"Next year, we are really looking forward to expanding the youth job skills program," Rogers said.
Teens can put in an application, but the positions go to those in good standing as a volunteer first.
In addition to the skills of timeliness and calling in if they can't make it to work, "they must have a really great attitude with the children and be really polite to adults who walk in the door," Rogers said.
The teens have been trained through the program to multi-task and get the little ones to cooperate.
Nine teens are currently employed by the Payson Community Kids program.
They earn minimum wage and are paid once a month.
Many, like Adam and Carissa, grew up in the program and logged volunteer hours before being hired.
"I like working and helping the little kids," said Carissa, who works three afternoons a week for two hours.
The little ones look up to the older ones for help with homework, art projects, storytelling, games and light chores that need doing around the house.
"The hardest thing is probably getting the kids to wash their hands before dinner," Adam said.
How does he break up a disagreement between his charges when it occasionally breaks out?
"I just ask them to quit," he said with a gentle smile. "They all like me, so they usually listen."
And the community listens.
"I want to thank everyone who makes this program possible all year long," Rogers said.
Coats, shoes, sweatshirts and toys will be under the tree for the children at Payson Community Kids, thanks to the generosity of area residents, businesses, churches and the American Legion.
"Pioneer Title confirmed that we are going to get our (second annual) golf tournament fund-raiser in 2007," Rogers said.
The Modified Motorcycle Association raised money and built the fence behind the swing set so the children could have privacy.
Payson Community Kids won nine ribbons at the Northern Gila County Fair for the produce the children raised in the garden, all because members of the local garden club took the time to share with the children an understanding of how things grow.
There is a second bathroom for the children to use that comes in especially handy at mealtimes -- 39 pairs of little hands needed washing this past Thursday.
Fewer show up on Sundays when Marcy takes them to church.
"That is when I get to cook a special meal like chicken enchiladas," she said.
"I like macaroni," Jessie piped up.
"I like spaghetti," Ken added.
Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are the standby if the children do not like the prepared meal.
The children in the program do projects to give back to the community. Food and clothing that Payson Community Kids cannot use is donated to another charity.
Nearly 300 Christmas cards, some made by and all signed by the children, have been mailed.
When they bake holiday cookies, they share them with those who have helped.
"We visit Everett Jackson with a plate of food sometimes," Rogers said. "He is the man who built the Payson Community Kids house and is 96 years old now. Everett is walking history and they need to know people like him. He is really positive. He didn't want a birthday card in August because every day is a celebration. That is inspiring."
There is a waiting list for participation in Payson Community Kids, but Rogers said she does accept community referrals through Child Protective Services and other agencies.
To contact Rogers, or to donate to Payson Community Kids, call (928) 472-7163.