When LaWanda Brooks-Barksdale received a cancer diagnosis that impeded her ability to work, she decided to do something special for her neighborhood, she formed an outdoor activity and learning center for the children in the area.
Miss LaWanda, as she likes to be called runs the Northside Youth Organization Program, and she along with three other volunteers from the area, Miss Reese, Miss Brenda and Miss Diamond set up the outdoor center four days a week, Monday through Thursday off of Fond du Lac Ave., across from the Fondy Farmer’s Market.
She uses carts and whatever else is available to set up the play and activity outdoor center, bringing the supplies and play stations from her home to the outdoor area everyday that program operates.
Area businesses have embraced the concept, and have donated money, ice. drinks and supplies from outdoor play stations to small wading swimming pools.
HeartLove Place Ministries provides lunch for the children that include peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, celery sticks, apples and milk. The center is open to children ages 2-18 years-old, and it operates from 11 am -3 pm.
Miss LaWanda says that she thought of the idea because there was just nothing in the neighborhood for the children to do, and nothing that offered parents a break from their refrigerators for the summer, and constructive things for the children to do.
The organization has received books and other supplies from the Christian organization, Jesus Loves the Little Children. The area businesses such as Jesse’s Hauling and Moving, the Motorcycle Club and MPS have all made donations of supplies and even small amounts of money to help encourage the program’s efforts.
Even a young man from the neighborhood, 20 year-old Coach Montrell has taken on the task of coaching the children in soccer, football and baseball.
Miss LaWanda would like to see the program develop into something that could be held year round, but that of course would take a inside facility. But for now she is happy with the city allowing her to use the land that she uses now for her outdoor center.