For several years about a decade ago, Neighborhood Recreation Center employees visited apartment complexes in low-income areas to host games, activities and crafts with children who did not have transportation to the center. They stopped when the free program known as Rec N Roll lost funding, recreation supervisor Angela Johnson said.
The center relaunched the program in November. Johnson and Keith James, a program supervisor who leads the program, said they revamped it because fewer children were going to the center.
Now the employees use 12-passenger vans to pick up children ages 5-18 at four apartment complexes, including Juan Garcia and Sarann Knight apartments, as well as The Shade Tree. They rotate which groups they pick up — 3:30 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays for one group, then Tuesdays and Thursdays for another. Drop-offs occur about 6 p.m. each day, James said. They provide transportation for children at all four apartment complexes about 10 a.m. Saturdays.
Participation in Rec N Roll costs $3 a month. The Neighborhood Recreation Center is the only facility that offers the program.
When kids arrive at the facility, they are able to play games in the activity room or basketball in the gym, or participate in group games such as musical chairs, James said. They also can have a light meal, such as broccoli, chicken nuggets and a drink.
The purpose of the program is to get children out of the house, said James, who added he has been working at recreation centers since 2005.
“They can come and do what they want,” he said. “They like the freeness of it, (which is different) from when they are at school or at home.”
Taraj Watkins, 11, said her parents appreciate that they don’t have to take her younger brother and her to the recreation center.
“(I like it because we can play) a lot of activities after school,” the fifth-grader said. “I (usually) play cards, pool or basketball. … (The leaders) are awesome, and they do more fun things than our school does.”
Ja’yaun Grace, 12, said he goes to the facility three days a week.
“I like playing basketball (when I come), and I’ve made friends,” he said.
James said about 25 kids are involved in Rec N Roll, and he hopes to expand that number by summer, when children are out of school. He added that he’ll continue regardless.
“I don’t want to start this program and then take it away,” he said. “The kids here appreciate the building, and this is pretty much all they have.”
Neighborhood Recreation Center
Where: 1638 N. Bruce St.
Hours: Open from 9 a.m.-8 p.m. daily
1638 N. Bruce St.