After teaching for 25 years in the Philadelphia public school system, James Egins retired in 1991. He moved to Laurel about seven years later and, because he missed being in the classroom, volunteered at schools in Baltimore and Washington.
Last year, he began to volunteer at the Laurel Boys and Girls Club and is now the main educator for a weekday after-school program the club began last fall.
"We are lucky since Mr. Egins was available," said Levet Brown, president of the Laurel Boys and Girls Club. "We went to him about doing this program, and he is doing really well with it. He joined the (10-member) board of directors in January."
The club got another boast Feb. 8 when United Way announced it had awarded a $12,000 Community Impact Fund grant to the Laurel Boys and Girls Club organization, one of 52 grants United Way of the National Capital Area awarded to 46 member organizations based inPrince George's County, according to a press release.
The money, according to Brown, will be used for reading materials, snacks, computers and transportation costs, including sending a van to pick up students at their school and bring them to the program, which runs from about 2 to 6 p.m.
"We pick up the kids every day. We need gas. We give them two snacks a day. I have to go out and get food for them," said Egins, who has a master's degree in education from Temple University. "The money comes in handy."
Brown, whose son is in the program, said there are about 22 youths in the after-school program, ranging in age from 5 to 12. They are all Laurel residents and attend schools such as Deerfield Run Elementary, Laurel Elementary, Scotchtown Hills Elementary, Eisenhower Middle and Oaklands Elementary.
"The reason we started it was because we were getting phone calls from parents. After-school programs in the area were full," Brown said. "So we decided to do one ourselves."
In addition, students from Laurel High, St. Vincent Pallotti High and Eleanor Roosevelt High, in Greenbelt, gain community service hours by helping out, and an intern from the University of Maryland also assists elementary-age students in the program.
The club does not turn away eligible students, though Brown said the program is not able to pick up students who don't attend Laurel schools in Prince George's County. Parents are encouraged to pay a weekly fee of $75 to aid the program, though Brown and Egins look at the situation of each family and sometimes waive or lower that rate.
Parents can enroll their children online (www.laurelboysandgirlsclub.org) or stop by the club at 701 Montgomery St.
In addition to doing their homework, students at the club get to take part in physical activities such as table tennis, indoor soccer, pool and basketball.
The money will augment the $75,000 awarded to the club last July from the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, according to Brown. He said he applied for the United Way grant at the end of 2011, a few months after the after-school program began.
"The contributions from the Prince George's community demonstrates a commitment to joining together to ensure that programs in education, health and financial stability can continue their essential work," Bill Hanbury, president and CEO of United Way NCA, said in a statement. "Each of the Community Impact Fund grants will have an immediate and positive impact on each of these vital organizations."
Some of the other Prince George's County grantees are: American Diabetes Association; the Arc of Prince George's County; Arts for the Aging; Capital Area Food Bank; Community Legal Services of Prince George's County; End Time Harvest Ministries; and the Foundation for the Advancement of Music and Education, or FAME.
Fayola Hall said her son, Jaddai Hall-Jarvis, a kindergartner at Deerfield Run Elementary in South Laurel, has been in the program since the beginning of the school year.
"They help him out with homework," Hall said. "What I like is the activities where they help the kids. My son has to be active to keep his mind occupied."
Hall said she looked for an after-school program near Deerfield Run Elementary, but found they were already full. She went online and found the Laurel Boys and Girls Club program.
"So far, he likes the reading. He always wants to read a book every day," she said.
And that is music to the ears of Egins, who has found a second home at the Laurel club.