By Danielle Delgado
The Friendly House Youth Programs have noticeably been pushing towards a bigger and brighter future. With more than 2,300 youth served during the FY 2014 by its youth programs, Friendly House is moving onward and upward!
Over the last three years many of its programs have almost doubled and parent engagement has been resurrected!
Friendly House has a rich history of serving the Grafton Hill neighborhood for more than 94 years. The agency had embedded community, family and service in all that is does. Most recently Friendly House was named Worcester’s Non-Profit of the Year.
Some of this year’s program highlights are from its numerous Family Events (most recently its Annual Christmas Party hosting more than 1,200 children and families), Youth Hoops Program and its After School Drop In Program.
The Friendly House basketball program started back in the early 1980s and quickly became one of the best programs in the central Massachusetts area. It started off with 20 or so children and has grown to more than 300 participants this year, with the program doubling in size over the past three seasons. We attract children from the inner city area of Worcester but also have participants from the other towns of the Central Massachusetts area. The participants range in ages starting at 2nd grade with 9th grade being the last year a player is eligible.
The main focus of the program is to give kids the opportunity to learn the fundamentals of the game of basketball while promoting sportsmanship, teamwork and the importance of education. We also try to stress the importance of these traits in all areas of life, not just basketball.
We strive for excellence and are moving towards continuing to grow the program each year. In recent seasons we have added an alumni basketball game where players from earlier seasons compete against each other. This year’s game is to be played on January 31st. New basketball hoops have also been installed a few seasons back and we continue to try to find ways to improve our program on a daily basis.
The After School Program has also been gaining momentum in the past few years. We have been adding new programs every year to help enhance the quality of the children’s experiences. This year we added an Arts program with collaborations from the Worcester Art Museum, Worcester Center for Crafts, No Evil Project and Grafton St School. K-3Rd grade did self portraits with the Art Museum, 4th graders will be doing tile work with the Center for Crafts and the 5th and 6th graders will be going photo work with the No Evil Project.
The parent involvement support has been growing each year. Without parent involvement we wouldn’t be able to have success with events such as Family Pot Luck Dinners, Parent/Child Dance, Bake Sales etc. With the parents help we are able to make the program fun and unique for the children.
As in past years, the Afterschool participants also attend a program at WPI on Tuesdays and Thursdays in which the children get to experience different clubs and groups on the college campus. In addition, the children participate in the Little Buddies program which is collaboration with St. Francis Nursing Home.
There have been so many fabulous things happening at Friendly House over the past three years! We are hoping that 2015 continues to bless our agency, families and our community!!