The kids playing basketball and making bead crafts one recent February afternoon outside of Payson Community Kids happily avoided the surrounding chaos.
Nearby, adult volunteers prepared for a garage sale, and people from a local doctor’s office dropped off 100 coats.
Lori Mills, daughter of recently deceased Payson Community Kids (PCK) founder Marcy Rogers, helped organize things inside the building. She seemed happy surrounded by the buzz.
Delving into projects helps her process her mother’s death, she said. “We just want the program to succeed.”
At the time, the nonprofit had enough operating money for just three months.
Since Rogers died in December, the local nonprofit that feeds and clothes low-income kids and gives all kids a safe place to play after school, has struggled to regain footing.
Space is limited to the official center since Rogers used her house for the program. Consequently, kids mostly play outside because of the center’s cramped quarters.
Also, the program now operates once a week, down from three days a week. However, the board is looking for a part-time person, who the kids must approve of, to expand hours.
Volunteers and board members are also needed. Just four people sit on the board, and members say they’d like eight or 10 people.
“It takes a large group of people to get things done,” said member Bobby Tucker.
The board is fund-raising for a new building to supplement the property’s existing building, and board President Suzy Tubbs says the town has come together in support.
The organization raised $1,800 at a recent garage sale, plus another $1,200 in donations. Numbers still aren’t official for a Chili’s fund-raiser — the restaurant offered 10 percent of every bill for a day to PCK — but Tubbs said the night was well attended.
During March’s First Friday event on Main Street, Down the Street Art Gallery will donate half of all proceeds to PCK.
Also, the town of Payson waived the $1,000 conditional use permit that PCK would need to build on its property.
“We just have so much going on it’s chaotic,” said Tubbs.
She hopes to raise between $40,000 and $50,000 for a new building by the end of the school year. A local architect even volunteered his services to draw a preliminary sketch for the center.
Tubbs said people generally gape at her after she reveals her fund-raising goal.
“It’s possible,” she said. “If everyone in the town gave $3, we could do this no problem.”
Kids in Payson frequently complain of limited entertainment options. PCK’s goal is to give local youth a safe place to play and surround them with positive role models. Many parents must work odd hours or multiple jobs, often leaving kids at home alone.
“If their parents aren’t home, they’re going to go hang out with friends and cause mischief,” said Tubbs.
Tucker has volunteered with the program for 11 years, and sat on the board for the past five.
Tucker knows firsthand what kids in Payson do with boredom. His son got his girlfriend pregnant at 16.
“Do I think a program like this helps? Oh, definitely. It gives them something they’ll remember for the rest of their lives,” Tucker said.
Meanwhile, the number kids attending PCK’s after school program continues to grow.
Jimena, 11, has attended since she was 4. “I like to help the little kids,” she said while making a bead craft.
Nearby, cousins Maria and Maria recently started attending. Relatives of theirs come, too.
Kids tell their friends and everybody wants to come, organizers said.
Mills ruefully alludes to the program’s financial situation. “I wish I was as creative as my mom with all her fund-raising ideas,” she said.
But Mills adds she’ll help anyway she can.