The sound of children's laughter echos throughout the hall. One room is filled with three-year-olds singing and dancing in a circle.
Across the hall you can smell the afternoon snack that is being served. At each table, the children wait patiently for the teacher to come and fill their cups with the coconut dessert.
Not only does the Ballard Community Center in North Lawrence provide these children with warm meals and day care, but it serves as a community service agency for Douglas County.
Located at 708 Elm, the Elizabeth B. Ballard Community Center provides both before- and after-school day care and acts as a social service agency for low-income families and individuals. The center provides assistance with their food, medical and utility bills.
THE CENTER'S services are supported in part by the United Way of Douglas County, which has allocated $53,488 to it from the current campaign.
Martha Wenzel, Ballard Center teacher, said that in the eight years she has worked there, the agency has expanded and now is able to help many more people.
``We not only have a bigger day-care center, but we offer a lot in the form of community services,'' Mrs. Wenzel said. ``It's so neat that year after year I keep coming back.''
Sherri Cannon, Ballard Center director said the center participates in many communitywide services such as food banks and the ``Warm Hearts'' program, that assists in paying for heating bills in the winter.
The Holiday Bureau is the biggest citywide program in which the Ballard Center participates. Ballard Center and other social service agencies donate food baskets and gifts to families during the holidays.
``IT'S LIKE going shopping for a family of 200,'' Ms. Cannon said.
While during the winter Ballard Center focuses on the Holiday Bureau and the Warm Hearts program, in the fall it donates school kits to children. Along with these once-a-year programs, it also provides food and clothing on a regular basis.
To meet all of its needs, Ballard Center relies upon 15 employees and 10 volunteers.
``During the Christmas season, there is always so much to do,'' Ms. Cannon said. ``But what is nice is that there is always someone to count on.''
Community residents such as Mrs. Wenzel put a lot of time and commitment into the Ballard Center.
``It's so rewarding,'' Mrs. Wenzel said. ``I have made a lot of friends with the children and families to the point that when they move, I really hope we don't lose touch.''