When kids first join the program, they can be rough and they often use foul language. But after spending time with our volunteer coaches – in a positive and disciplined environment – they learn to be good team players and they learn sportsmanship. In fact, just the little bit of time they spend in this environment can make a big difference in their attitude about life, about what they do at home and in school. After a couple of seasons, kids often come up to me and say,
“This isn’t just about sports, is it?” I just smile and say,
“No, it isn’t.” – Ben Farnsworth
More than 100 kids play football … 70 play basketball … 40 cheer … dozens receive academic tutoring … and all this in a program that became a full-fledged non-profit just four years ago.
DTM, or Downtown Ministries, was founded in 2002 by Redeemer Presbyterian Church. Originally, DTM was used to organize youth sports teams, reaching out specifically to at-risk youth. In 2007, DTM became a non-profit entity on its own. DTM Executive Director Ben Farnsworth echoes a statement that you can find on the organization’s website when he says, “Each child involved with us represents a unique story and a specific need, and we are excited for the opportunity to be involved in their lives.”
DTM’s ministry focuses first and foremost on the basic physical and emotional needs of the kids. Initially, they connect with youth through their sports program, after-school tutoring and various community services. Football, cheerleading and basketball programs allow the kids and their families to come together as a team.
Currently, more than 200 at-risk youth in Athens have participated in a sporting event sponsored by Downtown Ministries. After-school tutoring helps students get individual help with homework from committed volunteers, or the kids can just have the time and quiet place to work on math and reading. An added bonus with the after-school program is the offer of a snack and hang-out time with people who truly care about the youth.
DTM volunteers also participate in Christmas gift outreaches, vacation Bible school programs and various community projects. Recently, the director of education for Downtown Ministries received training to facilitate a workshop entitled Darkness to Light: Adults Protecting Children, which will eventually help volunteers recognize and prevent the sexual abuse of children.
DTM wants to make a different in the lives of Athens residents, starting with our children. According to 2010 U.S. Census Bureau data, almost 40% of Clarke County residents live in poverty, making Athens-Clarke County the poorest metro county (county with more than 50,000 people) in the nation. This organization’s tutoring program, combined with the support that kids receive from caring, dedicated adults, is making a difference in the lives of these young people.
If you would like to be part of this effort, you can support Downtown Ministries with a tax-deductible cash donation, a contribution of your time and expertise as a tutor, or your donation of any kind of new or lightly used sports equipment. Find out more at www.downtownministries.org.
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