After-school program hopes to grow

Children in the Phoenix neighborhood after-school care program visit with Votan, a police dog with the Gainesville Police Department.

ANDRA PARRISH/Special to The Sun
Published: Friday, January 31, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 31, 2003 at 1:04 a.m.
When Gainesville Police Officer Sammie Cooper was given the task in October of restarting an after-school program in the Phoenix subdivision, he had to start from scratch.
Now the kids keep coming, and the room they're using is overflowing.
The program has become such a success that officials are kicking off a month of fund raising to get a bigger building.
"What's happening is, the clientele is outgrowing the space we have," said Herman K. Williams, president and CEO of the Gainesville branch of the Family Christian Association of America.
The organization's volunteers use the Gainesville Police substation in Phoenix, just off SW 23rd Street, for the after-school program from 2-6 p.m. Volunteers, many retired teachers, tutor children and help them use computers and learn life skills and personal safety.
The Alachua County Sheriff's Office used to have an after-school program in Phoenix when the subdivision was part of the county. But when the area got annexed into the city last September, the program shut down for a few weeks while police adjusted to the annexation.
The group hopes to raise $5,000 in one month and eventually buy an entire building in Phoenix and turn it into a youth center.
Melanie Jones, a sixth-grader at Kanapaha Middle School, is a frequent visitor at the program.
"I think it's fun," Jones said. "We do homework, we play games, play on the computer and have snacks. Otherwise I'd probably just be messing around and watching cartoons."
Anyone interested in donating or volunteering for the program can call 374-4555.
Kathy Ciotola can be reached at 338-3109 or ciotolk@

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