Youth in the Kids in Motion (KIM) program were hard at work at two different locations on Thursday, lending a helping hand at Beth Haven Retirement Community and the United Way of the Mark Twain Area — a partner agency for KIM.
KIM is a program under the umbrella of Douglass Community Services (DCS) that teaches youth work skills while they engage with members of their community — giving back through tasks like picking up trash, planting flowers and cooking meals for area guests. Stephanie Cooper, executive director at DCS, said the opportunity to give back to the United Way was a unique chance for the KIM members to show their thanks to community members and groups who support their program.
"We have a lot of agencies like the United Way, as well as private donors, that have been very supportive over the years to Kids in Motion. This is just a small way that we can say thank you to those individuals and to those agencies. Because without their support, there wouldn't be a Kids in Motion program," Cooper said.
Denise Damron, executive director of the United Way of the Mark Twain Area, expressed her gratitude for the help the KIM participants provided — including vacuuming and washing the United Way's van, cleaning windows and organizing the office storage area.
"We love it. We love them being here," she said. "We love all volunteer groups that come, but Kids in Motion is a fun one because United Way does help fund part of their program. So it's fun for me to be able to connect. When they do things, it allows me to share their story better."
Cooper said KIM members "value their community" through the work they do. This summer, all 15 youth helped distribute food at DCS, and groups of KIM members helped out in the Families and Communities Together warehouse, cleaned the DCS building and parking lot, weeded and watered at the Victory Over Hunger Gardens, planted flowers at NECAC, picked up trash in Central Park and along Main Street and learned how to prepare meals with First Presbyterian Youth Pastor Matt Ver Meer for first responders and special guests.
"When I talked to the kids earlier this week, I asked them about what their favorite jobs have been. One of them said 'all of them,'" Cooper said.
The youth are prepared to work hard and they know that there is a financial incentive involved, but Cooper said they make lasting connections as they interact with community leaders and witness what Hannibal has to offer.
Supervisor Amanda Morris said the KIM members learned new skills such as how to operate a vacuum and how to properly clean windows while they made a positive impact at the United Way office.
"It's beautiful. I've heard a lot about Kids in Motion, but I've never actually seen it work and how it works in the community," she said, stressing that the children are gaining life skills throughout the summer.
Chazity and Tyyahna said this was their first time washing a vehicle.
"It's fun, and I like cleaning cars," Chazity said. Tyyahna agreed that the experience was "awesome."
At Beth Haven Retirement Community, KIM members were busy sweeping the sidewalks and staining benches as Carrie Wolfmeyer supervised their efforts.
"They're doing great, they're troopers," she said.
Riley, Chaze and Mariah worked as a team to stain one of the benches, and they were excited to help make a positive impact.
"It feels good to help people who can't always do things themselves," Mariah said.
For more information about KIM, contact DCS at 573-221-3892 or visit www.douglassonline.org.