MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Kids have been coming to the Hollywood Community Center on Thursday nights for eight years now. Word has finally spread.
"We’ve been coming for three-and-a-half years,” said Monique Thomas, a mother of five who lives in the Goodwill Village Apartments next to the community center.
Mac King is an organizer with Kirby Woods Baptist Church; he decided to lay down roots here, get to know the community and start programs like this one.
“Our BCM students from the University of Memphis come in and help with homework. We have teachers from Douglass Elementary who come in and help students with their homework. We try to provide a safe place. We started doing this eight years ago. We just saw a need,” King said.
Children in North Memphis often face an uphill battle. In fact, it’s the neighborhood where 10-year-old Vynnitra Dobbs was shot in the head earlier this year. Police said a man fired into her apartment. Vynnitra was one of their Thursday night regulars.
Other children deal with poverty and malnutrition.
“We had a kid who’d come in, a kindergartner, he’d eat 12 pancakes in the morning. The reason he’d do those things is he didn’t have anything to eat when he went home in the afternoon,” King said.
And while U of M students tutor, they also just hang out, show love and do anything to make the kids smile.
“We eat snacks and stuff. Sometimes we have block parties," 9-year-old Destiny Hill said.
Those who are here said they saw a difference.
"It’s an everyday grind. But to see kids that begin to rise above, begin to excel in school, get achievement awards in school," King said.
"Just gotta get out here see what’s going on in the neighborhood. It’s positive stuff going on," Thomas said. "They love it."
“I wanna say thank you,” Destiny said.
The group meets at the Hollywood Community Center on North Hollywood Street every Thursday from 5-6:30 p.m. Contact the center for more information or to get involved.