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After-school clubs put focus on character

Since 1984, Children Bible Ministries of Maryland Inc. has held Character Building Clubs at public elementary schools in multiple counties throughout the state. The purpose of these clubs, said Louise Horner, who is a Children Bible Ministries committee member for Carroll County, is to give confidence and help develop positive character traits using what the Bible teaches as a guide.

"We try to instill character growth and at the same time teach the basics of the Bible," Horner said. "All these characteristics will make these children good citizens and good people when they are grown up."

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The club lasts the length of the school year and is available to students from kindergarten through fifth grade. It meets every week, once a day and usually for about one hour. While at the club meetings, children will be taught with stories both from the Bible and current examples in an entertaining environment which features songs, learning games and prizes. Parents are also welcome to attend.

The Character Building Clubs program has grown from seven elementary schools in Carroll County to 11, and is available in many parts of the county including Eldersburg, Finksburg, Westminster, Hampstead and Manchester. Attendance has also risen to more than 100 children.

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Maggie Smith, director of the program in Carroll County, said that the existence of the clubs depends on the number of volunteer leaders and the willingness of the individual school administrations to allow the club to be held on school grounds. Due to these factors, the clubs are constantly trying to get the community involved with fliers, word of mouth and an informative website.

Even though Smith said she is pleased with the growth, there are many more schools and children still to be reached.

"Our goal is to be in all 23 public elementary schools eventually," Smith said.

Smith said that the clubs' method of teaching values hand-in-hand with lessons from the Bible fortifies character development.

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"This helps them give legitimate reference for these things we are teaching to them," Smith said. "What we are teaching is very credible and worthwhile."

Jennifer Mateer, leader of the Carrolltowne Elementary School Club, has been involved with the program for three years and has taught at multiple locations. She said that the curriculum is broken down into a unit that focuses on one particular value. These values include compassion, courage, honesty, initiative and loyalty, to name a few. Mateer said that although each unit has a particular trait as its focus, inevitably they discuss others as well.

"Often when you're teaching one character trait, other character traits filter in there too," Mateer said.

The units are separated so that students are taught about different values each year. Mateer said this is designed so that no student ever repeats the same lessons.

"This year I was able to teach three units and next year I would come back and I would teach three different units," she said.

Ultimately, Smith said that the clubs' purpose, as a program developed by Children Bible Ministries of Maryland Inc., is primarily to make the truth of the Bible available to the children in Carroll County as well as reinforce what their parents are teaching them at home.

"We think it's a vital necessity," Smith said. "It provides excellent examples of character qualities that are certainly something we want to see developed in children."

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