Zion Wells picks up a wooden block with an animal painted on it, and places it on a puzzle board in its correct spot.
“What’s this animal?” asks Lashay Nixon.
“Cheetah,” Zion says.
“What does the cheetah do?” Nixon continues.
“Runs fast,” Zion responds.
Zion picks up another block and Nixon runs through the same questions.
“Eats grass,” Zion says, when asked what a zebra does.
Zion is one of a group of children ages 3 through 5 who participate in the afternoon preschool program at the Thomas William Community Center in Farrell, a Mercer County Housing Authority property.
While the preschool program has existed since the fall of 2011, it moved downstairs to its newly remodeled home at the center this week, as part of National AmeriCorps Awareness Week.
“We’re overwhelmed right now,” Mila Hiles, coordinator of AmeriCorps programs, said of the space. “We’re excited. There’s so much room. We can do a lot of things.”
The space also is being used for an afterschool program for grades kindergarten through eight.
Chuck Fleet, the authority’s resident initiatives director, said the AmeriCorps workers who staff the center will have free rein on how best to use the space.
“It gives them their own entrance,” he said. “This is kind of their area.”
The remodeling was undertaken by AmeriCorps workers through Keystone SMILES, the Knox-based organization that receives federal AmeriCorps grants and has partnered with the authority on projects for years. Authority employees also took some time to help with the work.
The workers painted and installed cabinets and countertops and kitchen appliances for two classrooms, a craft room, office space and a kitchen, said Libby Hansford, service learning coordinator for Keystone SMILES. They also painted murals, stained glass-style windows and fancy alphabet letters.
An employee of Sherman Williams stopped in to teach the volunteers painting techniques.
Hansford said workers installed “recycled” items when they could and used volunteer labor
“We kind of take our limited resources and put them together,” he said.
The center was one of three projects - the others in Emlenton and Knox - undertaken by Keystone SMILES, all starting on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
“We came to him and said, ‘Do you have a dream,’ ” said Joyce Fosdick, Keystone Smiles executive director, of Fleet.
Keystone SMILES operates in 14 counties, and volunteers for the Farrell project came from as far as Clarion County.
“Culturally, for our members coming here, it was enriching, coming from a rural area to an urban area,” Hansford said. “For some, it’s a big deal.”
Fleet said the center reminds him of when he was growing up in Farrell.
“There was always a place to go,” he said, referring to the afterschool programs and other initiatives catering to kids, many run by churches and non-profit groups. “Now, there aren’t as many.”
Although the AmeriCorps programs are open to the public, Fleet said he hopes it mainly attracts authority residents from the neighborhood. A computer lab and adult-geared classes in resume writing are offered upstairs at the center.
The programs will accept donations of money, snacks, school supplies and toys appropriate for ages 3 to 5, said Hiles, who can be reached at 814-221-6946 for program information and donations.
AmeriCorps crew remodels center
- Local News
Grand jury invoked
Local conservatives, tracing their rights to the American Revolution and farther back to the Magna Carta and the Bible, voted Thursday to form a common law grand jury they say is needed to reform government because it has become corrupt at the local, state and federal levels.
Such panels lack authority, officials say
Mercer County’s president judge and district attorney say they recognize that all Americans have the “absolute” right to assemble, speak their political minds and seek redress of their grievances.
Red Kettle drive donations lagging
While donations to the Salvation Army’s Red Kettle drive normally take a dip in the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas, overall donations across a 28-county region are down more than $307,000 compared to last year at this time, according to statistics released this week by the organization.
- News briefs from Dec. 5, 2013
Court backs jail term for drug dealer
A former Farrell man serving a sentence for drug deals lost an appeal to get out from under a 10-year mandatory prison term.
Digester plant expansion ‘substantially complete’
Hermitage Municipal Authority on Wednesday approved the final certificates of substantial completion for contractors hired to expand the water pollution control plant.
Power outage clears cancer care center
A squirrel was the culprit behind a power outage that cleared out Sharon Regional Health System’s Cancer Care Center at 2320 Highland Road in Hermitage on Wednesday morning.
Budget sets savings goals for 2014
Mercer County commissioners will likely approve this morning a $60 million budget for the coming year that holds the line on taxes and sets out savings goals for the coming year, but Fiscal Administrator John Logan said he can’t be that confident about coming years.
Campbell will spend 35 to life behind bars
As a Mercer County common pleas court judge, Christopher J. St. John often is faced with having to balance the details of a horrific crime with letters from the defendant’s friends and family members espousing what a good person the defendant is and how out of character the crime is.
News briefs from Dec. 4, 2014
Man charged with raping woman Nov. 10 at home
Judge clears park critic of most charges
Stevenson won’t seek re-election
Dick Stevenson, who has served the 8th District in Mercer and Butler counties in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives since 2001, has announced that he will not seek re-election in 2014.
Ex-nurse gets probation for drug thefts
A former nurse who admitted to stealing drugs from his employer last year was sentenced to 18 months probation.
Other business from Dec. 4, 2013
Hermitage School Board
Sharon School Board
Assault case dropped in plea deal
A Sharon man pleaded guilty Nov. 12 to corrupting the morals of a 12-year-old girl and trying to get a fellow inmate to retaliate against her on his behalf.
Amish man still critical after buggy accident
The Amish man whose wife and daughter died in a weekend accident remained in critical condition Tuesday.
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