We’ve all heard the adage “It takes a village to raise a child.” School teachers, counselors, coaches and staff play a big role in nurturing a child throughout the school year. But what happens when the school year comes to a close and working parents aren’t able to surround their children with the same kinds of nurturing throughout the day? How can communities support children during these times while laying a foundation for healthy habits when the next school year comes around?
While raising her own children, Reverend Quincyetta McClain saw that her community lacked the infrastructure to nurture every child. So with support from her husband and church congregation, she became a builder.
Rev. McClain, a palliative and spiritual care manager at Kaiser Permanente in the Central Valley, created a nonprofit that serves as a summertime haven for students 6 – 17 years old in Manteca, Calif. Students of Friday Unity Night in the Neighborhood, known as the F.U.N. Club, receive health education, physical fitness and participate in healthy nutrition, thanks to a staff of more than 70 volunteers.
“I wanted to make a difference by providing a safe, free, fun-filled evening while connecting kids with information they can use to change the rest of their lives,” says Rev. McClain.
All of the F.U.N. Club’s activities center around combating and preventing obesity, diabetes, heart disease and hypertension among students who are most at risk.
In the Health & Wellness Center, students receive a clinical assessment that includes a recording of their height, weight, blood pressure, body mass index and nutritional status. Dr. Paul Luong, MD, MBA, one of Rev. McClain’s colleagues at Kaiser Permanente, recently stepped aboard as the F.U.N. Club’s Medical Director.
Records are kept for each participant, providing continuity for those who may need medical assistance during program hours. Dental education is provided through a partnership with a local dental group.
During the afternoon and early evening hours each summer, the F.U.N. Club offers health education through interactive dialog, healthy snacks and a range of activities so great as to engage any and every child, including arts & crafts, music lessons and exercise classes that also emphasize emotional balance.
The program’s core themes are:
- You are What you Eat, Drink and Think;
- Say no to Gangs, Drugs, Crime, Alcohol, Tobacco, Bullying and Soda; and
- Be Cool Stay in School: You Must be a High School Graduate.
A scholarship program, career night and free backpacks with school supplies reinforce the significance of education and underscore that the possibility of higher education is a fitting one for every child.
Participation in the F.U.N. Club has risen each year since 2008. Donations from the community have helped to finance the program. And Rev. McClain has built it on her own “spare” time, outside of her work hours. The most pressing challenge she faces at present is to acquire a permanent facility and establish a consistent stream of revenue.
“Once our infrastructure is in place we look forward to working more closely with local schools, teachers, and students,” reports Rev. McClain.
Many families in Manteca survive on very modest incomes. A significant proportion are single parent families, and many children are being raised by grandparents. For hundreds of young people, The F.U.N. Club has become the primary source for access to healthy foods and physical activity in the summertime.
As she seeks, she finds. Says Rev. McClain, “The F.U.N. Club kids have blessed me more than anyone can imagine. They are our future and we must invest in them now, not later.”
Rev. McClain is being honored this week with the David Lawrence Community Service Award, presented by Kaiser Permanente.
To read more about the F.U.N. Club, see two recent articles in the Manteca Bulletin:
This post was authored by Laura E. Saponara, Senior Communications Consultant for Kaiser Permanente Community Benefit.