In a room painted bright blue, decorated with colorful hand prints of children and filled with a variety of toys, 12 children engage themselves in numerous games and activities. The children are at Ballard Community Center in North Lawrence.
"We use a family approach here. All of the teachers know the parents and vice versa," said Sherri Cannon, executive director of the Ballard Community Center.
For the past 30 years, the Ballard Community Center has been providing services to low income families of Lawrence, said Cannon. The center has two functions: Child care and a social service program. Both are funded by the United Way of Douglas County.
The center provides care for children between the ages of 12 months and 12 years. Children between the ages of 12 months and 5 years are eligible to participate in classes during the day. The classes are divided in to four levels according to age and are taught by members of the Ballard Community Center staff, said Cannon.
The center also provides before and after school care, as well as full-time summer care for children 6 to 12 years old.
Valaria Coleman, 11, of Lawrence has been going to the Ballard Community Center for more than two years.
"My favorite part is the people I can play with, because where I live, there aren't people to play with," she said.
The social services program at the Ballard Community Center helps in several different areas. The center helps pay for rent and utilities for people who are in need. It also has an emergency food bank.
The center also receives food from the United States Department of Agriculture that is bought by the government and distributed by the center. The commodities may include canned pork, vegetables, fruit or dry milk. The supplies are available to people once a month for three consecutive months. There must be a month between the third month food is allotted and the next time food is available to that family, said Cannon.
Each year the center provides school supplies for school children between the ages of 6 and 12. Supplies donated to the center are divided among the students who need them for the following school year.
During the holiday season, volunteers at the Ballard Community Center organize holiday baskets for families who can't afford a holiday meal. The center delivers to families baskets that include food as well as toys for children, said Cannon. The center is able to organize the baskets from money and food donations.
Last year, the Ballard Community Center was able to give 8,000 services to people in need, with the help of the United Way of Douglas County, said Cannon. The center was allotted more than $72,500 for 1995 and is allocated $73,394 for 1996.