Thursday, 07 May 2015 16:07

The Nehemiah Center: Providing Positive Principles Through Prayer, Play and Purpose

Written by  Mandy Pascal
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But Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them,

for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”(Matthew 19:14)

 

 

For the past 10 years, Montgomery has had the pleasure of being home to one of the leading Christian Community Development Programs, The Nehemiah Center.  The Nehemiah Center was created using the model of community development which involves going into an under served area and enabling and empowering the community to better help themselves.

When the program first began, it conducted a survey in the Chisolm community asking what exactly the residents believed was the area’s biggest need.  Surprisingly, the majority of the people polled had the same answer, “find a way to keep our kids off of the streets.”  Ever since, The Nehemiah Center has worked hard to ensure that happens, and has made the children their primary focus. 

 

One of the wonderful things about The Nehemiah Center is there is absolutely no charge for any of the families involved.  They are supported by First Baptist Church Community Ministries and survive strictly on grants and generous donations. 

 

Although the main focus of The Nehemiah Center is the children, they know in order to make a real impact, they have to begin in the home.

 

“We have learned that in order to truly help the children, we must first begin with strengthening the families,” said Executive Director Rhonda Thompson.

 

In order to ensure the families are provided for, as well as the children, The Nehemiah Center has several programs to offer adults a

s well. Probably the most popular is the GED and Job Readiness program.  The Center helps adults participating in the program work to create an impressive resume, as well as teaching them how to conduct themselves in an interview.

 

Due to the growing Latino population in the Chisolm area, The Nehemiah Center is beginning a new program to help these families. They are now offering Conversational English and ESL classes for anyone who wants to participate.

 

The Center also offers a parenting class called Moms and Mentors. This class is available to anyone who has children or takes care of children. 

 

“We have discovered over the years that you can’t take care of your children if you don’t know how to take care of yourself first,” said Thompson.  “This is why we work just as much with our parents as we do our children.”

 

The Nehemiah Center also knows they cannot do it alone, so often times they partner with other local organizations such as the Family Guidance Center to work with the families. 

 

“We don’t want to reinvent the wheel or do what everyone else is doing,” explains Thompson.  “We want to partner with as many preexisting organizations in town to work toward a common goal.  We don’t want to compete with each other, we want to strengthen each other.”

Although The Nehemiah Center provides many family activities to help strengthen the home, the heart of the organization is definitely the children. They offer a free after school program to any children in the community who want to come.  Currently, there are 35 children who participate in the after school program. 

 

Every day, children are picked up from Chisolm and Highland Gardens Elementary Schools and brought to the Center.  There they are given a snack and a little free time before diving into the daily activities. 

 

Over the years, The Nehemiah Center has been able to make some wonderful connections, which in turn have been a huge benefit to the children.  Each week, the kids receive tennis lessons, art lessons and daily tutoring. Every Wednesday, the kids are taken down to First Baptist Church where they meet with their individual tutor/mentor.

 

“The primary tool The Nehemiah Center uses is relationships,” said Thompson.  “We are a relationship ministry that tries to minister to mind, body and spirit.  We know you cannot have one without the others.”

 

Since such a heavy emphasis is placed on relationships, they know the mentoring is just as important as the tutoring for the children. One way they help to build these relationships is by showing the children how much they truly care about them. Not only does this help the children, it also helps to build trust in the families.  This lets the children know they can come to the Center with anything at all, not just problems, but also when great things happen.

 

The Nehemiah Center has had the privilege for the past six years to partner with the Supreme Court of Alabama.  Because of this, the children have been given the opportunity to do something no one else in the state of Alabama has ever gotten to do. Since Christmas, students from the Jones School of Law have come to The Nehemiah Center’s after school program and spent time teaching the children all about the law and the court system.  Recently, the kids took a field trip to the Senate chamber and practiced some of the skills they have been learning.

 

With the school year coming to a close, the children have something wonderful to look forward to. The Nehemiah Center hosts a full-day summer program for 50 children each year. This program includes two meals (one hot meal), sports activities, dance lessons, as well as art lessons. 

They also work on a musical each summer, including drama, choreography, sets and music.  At the end of the program, they put on the musical for the Chisolm community as well as First Baptist Church.  The musical has several positive aspects... it keeps the children reading all summer long whether it be memorizing their lines in the scripts or learning songs.  The choreography and dancing also keeps them physically active. 

 

There is never a dull moment during the summer at The Nehemiah Center.  One of the things the children love is the big field trip they get to take.  Each summer, the children visit a different college campus in the state.  This is a positive tool that shows them how wonderful college can be, and that if they keep doing well in school, they can go to college one day as well.

 

God is definitely hard at work at The Nehemiah Center.  Lives are truly being changed due to the outpouring of love and hard work to make a difference in not only the child’s life, but also for the entire family.

 

Volunteers are always needed and appreciated, so please contact Rhonda Thompson at 334-263-6663 if you are interested in helping. You can make a difference in the lives of children and families right here in the River Region!

 

 

Mandy Pascal is a graduate of Troy University with a degree in Print Journalism.

 

 

 

Last modified on Thursday, 07 May 2015 16:10
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