A Rogue River community center has hired its first paid employee and tripled its budget for the upcoming school year, as it focuses its efforts on helping fourth- through sixth-graders in the area.
The nonprofit Rogue Outreach Center was started more than three years ago as a way to keep young people out of trouble, offering after-school programs and a place for children to hang out.
"There just isn't a tremendous amount for kids to do out here," said Dave Ehrhardt, a community member and City Council member who has volunteered to run the center.
Ehrhardt said this year the center will shift its focus from just a place for kids to hang out to a more structured after-school enrichment program.
Run mostly by volunteers and relying on numerous cash and in-kind donations, the center previously operated on an annual budget of about $6,000.
This year, the center has hired an administrator, and is offering scheduled after-school care, pushing costs up to $20,000, an amount Ehrhardt hopes will come in through grants and more fundraising.
The program has room for about 20 students this year, and so far 16 have signed up.
Just a few hundred yards from the old Rogue River Middle School building, the center at 211 Pine Street in Rogue River originally provided a place for those middle school students to hang out after school.
But when the middle school students were moved to the high school 11/2 miles away, and fourth- through sixth-graders took over the campus, ROC organizers decided to shift its focus to continue serving the students in the nearby building.
Students who sign up are met by volunteers at 2:15 p.m. when school gets out each day, and receive about two hours of after-school programs and a state-approved snack, all for $25 a month.
Parents also can opt to pay $10 more to provide supervision for another hour, from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m.
With activities such as chess, tai chi and African drumming, the ROC is filling a void for children created by budget reductions in public schools, Ehrhardt said.
"There's been so much cut over the last few decades," said Ehrhardt. "There's so much they aren't getting in schools anymore."
Ehrhardt said the program has received some mentoring from Tom Cole at Medford's Kids Unlimited, and is also receiving support from the Rogue River School District.
"The district sees this as a win-win," said Ehrhardt.
The program is scheduled to run from Sept. 4 to Dec. 21.