As an assignment supervisor in Franklin County’s juvenile court system, Kimberly Allen-Hairston sees the most challenging if not debilitating situations involving children.
Whether it is divorce, abuse, neglect, delinquency or child support, the issues and cases affecting local children are disturbing when taken in total, Hairston said. And worse, the problems can carry over from one generation to the next, she said.
It is why Hairston has chosen to get in front of the problems instead of witnessing them after the fact.
Since last fall Hairston has voluntarily visited Homeport’s Marsh Run community one Saturday each month, teaching pride, respect and responsibility to seven girls from fourth to sixth grade.
“My heart tells me I have to reach them,” said Hairston, who is close to retirement. “I was blessed as a young girl to have a Mother and Grandmother who were very active in my life."
Morgen Wade, Homeport's Manager of Volunteer Engagement, said Hairston's commitment offers an extra layer of support for Moms and their daughters.
"From social media pressure to parents being forced to work longer days, pre-teen children today have different challenges to navigate in their development than previous generations," Wade said.
Hairston, operating a program she calls IMPACT (I’m Protecting A Cherished Treasure), engages the children on any number of levels.
The children enjoy breakfast together, clean up the kitchen at their community center after they have eaten, exercise, and find ways to improve the Marsh Run complex. Sometimes they pick up litter to show pride in where they live.
“You know Miss Kim, this belongs to us,” the children tell her. “If we don’t care about it, who will?”
One Saturday the children put makeup on Hairston before a wedding she was attending.
“They were so excited -- so attentive. If you could have seen my lipstick . . . It was so much fun,” Hairston recalled.
The Saturday morning program also provides an opportunity to teach the children how to speak respectfully and care for one another.
“I talk to the girls about being my sister’s keeper, to look out for each other as a friend, girls,” said Hairston, who has a bachelor’s degree in health and community services from Bowling Green State University.
Respect is a critical component of the activities, said Homeport Program Specialist Mark Childs.
“The goal is for the girls to cherish themselves, respect themselves. They begin the program by saying, “Who is a treasure?’’ Childs said. “They respond, ‘That is me!’ It is important because if you see yourself in a positive manner you’ll feel that way.’’
The Saturday morning IMPACT program is a pilot program that could be replicated elsewhere one day, Childs said.
Childs said he goes to Marsh on Saturday to provide oversight to elementary age boys who are looking for similar direction. A formal program for boys is possible, too, he said.