Adopt-a-Child boon for kids

Published 12:00 am Monday, November 15, 2004


Staff Reporter

LAPLACE – Earlier this year, Crystal Williams-Jenkins had a vision that would address the needs of children and seniors in the River Parishes. And she wanted to coordinate a program that would benefit both sides, while teaching the children about the world.

Her friend, Tawana Eugene, was thinking along the same path, and told Williams-Jenkins about a program that her co-worker had been involved in called, ‘Adopt a Child.’

The premise of the program is to teach boys and girls to be ladies and gentleman; and also to adapt to society.

After discussing the possibility of bringing such a program to the River Parishes, the two women joined together with Sharon Coller; Tracy Peterson, Carla Prout; and Bertha Spivey to form the Community in Action Non-Profit Organization (CANO.)

The six members come from different professions, which adds to the diversity of the group.

“We are very excited about CANO. It is a blessing to have these ladies in our membership,” said Williams-Jenkins, who serves as president of the organization.

The group’s first program, ‘Adopt-a-Child,’ officially began with a get-together at the St. John Central Library on Nov. 6. Twenty-four River Parish children, ages 9-17, are matched with CANO members this year.

Serving as role models/mentors, the six women have developed an interactive program, which includes classes on manners; developing work and volunteer ethics, among other things.

The children are from various backgrounds, such as from at-risk families and others the group feels would benefit from the program.

Among the requirements for CANO Kids are attending classes covering topics such as appearance and attitude, among others. They also will complete at least two acts of community service involving the elderly and the youth of the area. A yearly retreat/field trip is also planned.

“These activities will be extremely fun and an ‘eye opening’ experience,” said Williams-Jenkins.

CANO wants to show the children that hard work and dedication can lead to a rewarding and enjoyable life. “The kids are really excited,” said Eugene. “And within our group membership, everyone is on the same page.”

Parents of the participants are also involved with the program and are welcome at the monthly meetings.

The Mission Statement of CANO is to improve the lives of seniors and needy families and teaching youth to be productive individuals in society.

A cotillion ball will be staged by CANO next spring when the participants in Adopt a Child ‘graduate’ from the program.

“Since we are not a debutante organization, we will be scheduling this event for our CANO Kids,” said Proutt.

When attending the Cotillion Ball, the children will dress accordingly. They will also be called upon to use those newly-found mannerisms that are crucial at such an event.

The current budget that supports CANO comes from membership dues. Fundraising events, such as a Fall Festival and car washes, are in the discussion stages. Williams-Jenkins said she will also be looking into grants that would assist in the group’s programs.

But she stresses that the financial aspect is secondary to the Mission Statement. “This (CANO) is not about money,” she said. “What we want to do is touch everyone – children, young adults and seniors alike.”

One event in the making is a ‘Senior Day’ that will include children assisting senior citizens in cleanup duties. Further details will be announced in the near future, according to the CANO members. The half-dozen ladies added that they are all optimistic about the future of their organization. “We are glad that we took this step,” said Williams-Jenkins. “We foresee this organization as being very successful. We are going to be around for years to come.”