First Neighborhood Youth Academy nearing in Parkersburg

PARKERSBURG – A group of volunteers wants to provide healthy food, activities and positive reinforcement to kids this summer.

Spinning out of efforts by the Neighbors group in the 4th City Council district and the Friends of Parkersburg’s Parks, the Neighborhood Youth Academy will hold its first event from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday at Good Shepherd Episcopal Church, 903 Charles St., Parkersburg.

“It’s open to any school-age kid who wants to come, first through 12th grade,” said Rick Sawyer, a Parkersburg resident and one of the volunteers.

The goal of the program is to provide children with productive activities during the summer while also teaching them healthy eating habits, life skills, self-respect and respect for others, said the Rev. Marjorie Bevans, rector of Good Shepherd Episcopal.

“We’ve had this ongoing problem in the summertime with kids in this neighborhood not being occupied with something structured and something good,” she said.

The sessions will provide not only a healthy lunch for the children but information on how to make healthy snacks and meals at home, Bevans said. Organizers also plan to bring in people from different professions to speak to attendees about their jobs and what kind of education and training they needed. Other guests will include police officers, firefighters and other first-responders, to help provide children with positive experiences with those individuals.

“The neighborhood there is extremely transient,” Sawyer said. “If they’re (kids) old enough to walk, they’re out in the street.”

Saturday’s planned activities include a visit from the 911 Center’s Mobile Command Vehicle, a presentation on beekeeping and honey and making peanut butter and honey sandwiches.

Parkersburg residents Cathi and Mel Wermter have been raising bees for three years and will share their knowledge and experience. They plan to stay involved as volunteers going forward.

“This will give them a meal on Saturday and something to keep them busy,” Cathi Wermter said.

Volunteers can still get involved for Saturday’s event or future ones, Bevans said.

“They just need to show up at 10:30 on Saturday morning and we’ll have instructions for them,” she said.

Fliers have been posted around the neighborhood, and volunteers will be sent out to invite kids Saturday morning, Bevans said.

Sawyer said the goal is to fill a need, not compete with any other groups providing activities for kids. Organizers hope to expand on the program in the future.

“If it goes well, next summer we’re going to try to spin it out into other communities,” Sawyer said.