Pumphrey Achievers must overcome money hurdles to survive


In its two years, Pumphrey Achievers has helped a number of local children stay away from drugs and focus on learning. But if the after-school program is to survive, it's going to have to get some help.

The grants that keep the community program afloat are running out, and there's no guarantee more money is on the way.

Pumphrey Achievers runs from September through mid-June, offering youngsters tutoring, field trips, peer support, career planning, exposure to the arts, lessons in black history, the value of community involvement and drug-awareness education.

"There were drugs throughout the community, and I thought if we started educating children about drug intervention, they would not want to stray in that direction," said Yolande Dickerson, a Pumphrey resident for about 35 years and director of the program. "I wanted this so badly for the children."

Neighborhood parents and the Taxpayers Improvement Association of Patapsco Park worked for two years to get the program started. United Way provided the sole funding, giving a $10,000 Family Preservation Time Limited Grant for the program's first year and $8,000 the second year.

Now, about 60 youngsters, ages 5 to 17, and parent volunteers meet from 4:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. three days a week at the Lloyd Keaser Community Center on Belle Grove Road and School Lane. This year's session will end Saturday with an outing to Druid Hill Park in Baltimore.

Tyrone Johnson, a United Way community liaison, said, "We're pleased with the job they are doing in the community."

But the grants were meant primarily to help the community until it could find other funding for the program, Mr. Johnson said. The group may be able to get more money from United Way, he said, but the competition would be stiff.

Mrs. Dickerson said she doesn't think the program can survive without outside help.

Still, parents said, they remain hopeful. They have seen the difference the program can make.

"My daughter was having problems when it came to adding large numbers, and they taught her that it's OK to use your fingers to get you over the hump," said Ellen Crews, mother of Brittany, 6, and Milton, 5.

On a recent evening, the children in the program held an environmental awareness march, walking from School Lane to Berlin Avenue carrying blue and white banners.

Parents, many of whom work, said they don't mind coming to the center to put in extra hours with the children to help them learn.

"The kids are worth it, and if we can let them see they are worth it and that there are other outlets besides drugs, violence and all that nonsense, then we think we've done our job," said Mrs. Crews.

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