Even though they live below the poverty level, many of the hard-pressed kids who attend an after-school program did what they could to raise funds for a much-needed addition.
After a few lemonade stands and bake sales, Payson Community Kids (PCK) finally has enough money to begin construction on a new center.
At 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, PCK will host a groundbreaking ceremony and barbecue at 409 S. Tonto St. Attendance is open with everyone encouraged to sign up to assist in the upcoming construction process, said PCK President and Interim Director Suzy Tubbs.
“We need all skill levels,” she said. “Any and all help will be accepted.”
Construction is slated to start soon and wrap up by August.
It’s been a year since PCK advocates began planning for a new youth center.
Due to its size, the current facility can only hold a handful of kids at any one time, so organizers were forced to offer most programs outdoors.
In December, the whole group relocated to the fellowship hall at First Southern Baptist Church in Payson due to construction.
Tubbs said the kids are adapting well to the new space, but are excited for a permanent after-school center.
For the past year, participants and advocates of the program have had to regroup after the unexpected death of PCK’s founder Marcy Rogers. Rogers started the nonprofit program from her home in 2002.
Over time, the group swelled from serving a few dozen children ages 6 to 18 to now more than 90.
Just in the last year, organizers have seen an increasing need for assistance, especially from homeless families with parents that cannot find work or from kids living with grandparents.
“The economy is really tough and people know they can send their kids to us for help,” Tubbs said.
PCK meets every Thursday after school. Children are given a place to get homework help, a warm meal and free clothes. In turn, participants are required to give back to the community.
“We are not a day care or a babysitting service,” Stubbs said.
Children work on various community projects. For Easter, kids made greeting cards for the Senior Center and for Christmas, 140 cards for Meals on Wheels seniors.
Community service helps the kids appreciate all that is being given to them, Stubbs said.
“They have to give back in order to get something free from the program,” she said. “We are not a welfare program.”
This sense of service has carried through to past participants.
Many teens no longer in the program return to volunteer regularly. Three teenage girls who started in the program around age 10, give back on a regular basis.
These volunteers as well as countless community advocates have helped raise $55,000, enough to build a modest, one-room building with bathrooms.
On April 15, the town of Payson issued a building permit for construction.
However, the road to making the facility a reality has been bumpy.
Organizers struggled to raise enough funds to cover various fees to Payson and the Northern Gila County Sanitary District. In November, the Payson Town Council waived a few fees, but said it could not eliminate all due to its own budget restrictions and worries that it would set a precedent to other nonprofits.
Recently, Tubbs learned they would need a few thousand more to cover the cost of a soils test and paving at the end of Tonto Street.
“We are going to have to do another fund-raiser for that money,” she said.
Thankfully, several people donated their talents for the design of the new building including architect Rex Hinshaw of Hinshaw and Associates, engineer Garrett Goldman of Tetra Tech, general contractor Vince Palandri of Vinrose Corporation and project coordinator Jim Luebener.
The only thing the program needs now is a permanent director.