FAIRPORT — The gymnasium at Assumption Parish on June 26 echoed with the delighted squeals of children from this community as well as the City of Rochester.
A minister helped children skip rope, while basketballs tossed by children and teenagers bounced everywhere.
Meanwhile, adult volunteers prepared lunch for participants in the Kidz Kaf√©, a weekly morning recreational, social and spiritual program for youngsters ages 3-14 that features play, prayer, and free breakfast and lunch. Visiting the parish that day were some children currently housed with their mothers in such shelters as Women’s Place and Sanctuary House, which are both operated by Catholic Family Center of Rochester.
Jim Robinson, who coordinates Kidz Kaf√© at Assumption, said the program benefits both city residents and suburbanites.
“It’s a great ministry for families because our children and their children play together,” he said. “They’re all on equal ground and have a ball together.”
Assumption Deacon Ronald J. Tocci noted that Kidz Kaf√© is operated under the umbrella of Project Urge, a collaborative effort of more than 20 urban and suburban churches and organizations in Monroe County, including Catholic Family Center and Catholic Charities’ Project Unity.
“Its purpose is to break down barriers of race and class and culture,” Deacon Tocci said of Project Urge.
He noted that Kidz Kaf√© runs once a month at his parish, once a month at Church of the Transfiguration in Pittsford and twice a month at Zion Hill Missionary Baptist Church in Rochester.
Kidz Kaf√© began several years ago at Zion Hill. The program is currently administered by Morning Star Missionary Baptist Church in Rochester, according to the Rev. Thomasina Owens, pastor and founder of Kidz Kaf√©. She said that young people were breaking into the Zion Hill congregants’ cars during church services, so the church decided to start the program to get the youngsters off the streets. She added that some of the children were not being properly fed at home because their parents were too poor or were spending money on drugs. She also felt that the children would do better on school days if they had eaten well over the weekend.
Cindy Merrill of Transfiguration said her husband, Daren, was inspired to volunteer for Kidz Kaf√© after hearing a speech by the late Rev. Samuel McKree of Zion Hill. The couple has volunteered with the program for the past five years, and Transfiguration began hosting the program about three years ago.
“We thought it would be a good idea to bring the children out to Transfiguration where they can run and play jump rope and play basketball,” she said. She added that four to five Transfiguration families regularly volunteer at Kidz Kaf√©.
Deacon Tocci said Assumption learned of Kidz Kaf√© last fall after a group of parishioners participated in a bus tour of various urban ministries, and has hosted Kidz Kaf√© since January. The Rev. Owens added that Assumption has donated such material items as back-to-school supplies and beds and stoves to families whose children participate in the program.
Assumption parishioner and volunteer Ashley Patterson, 15, said, “I think it’s fun to come and hang out and play with the kids.”
Ashley’s mother, Cindy Patterson, said she also enjoys volunteering with Kidz Kaf√©.
“It’s a nice opportunity to work with other people in the parish and get to know their families and work with the kids who get to get out of the city for awhile,” she said.
The city children, like Tashawn Hill, an 11-year-old member of Zion Hill, and 15-year-old volunteer Rashawn Smith, a relative of the Rev. Owens, also noted they like Kidz Kaf√©.
“It’s nice to help people and see them play and make sure they’re in a safe place,” Rashawn said, adding that his own volunteer work may someday lead to a career in ministry.
“Everybody’s always telling me I’m going to end up being a preacher or a speaker,” he said. “I kind of believe it.”
Deacon Tocci noted that Kidz Kaf√© is supported solely by private donations, and he praised his fellow parishioners for their generosity to the program.
“Anytime you do anything for the kids, the parish comes through,” he said.
EDITOR’S NOTE: For information on Kidz Kaf√©, call 585/544-1355.