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Churches, organizations offer to assist Arizona families during walkout

(AP Photo)

PHOENIX – The impending statewide teacher walkout has caused some working parents and those who rely on schools for their children’s meals scrambling to find an alternative.

Valley churches, organizations and businesses have begun announcing plans to assist those families during the walkout, scheduled to begin Thursday, including help with after-school care.

Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton said Tuesday the city’s recreation centers would be extending its hours on Thursday and Friday in order to “provide a safe place” for children between the ages of 6 and 17.

St. Mary’s Food Bank announced Monday it planned to increase meal production for families in need during the walkout.

The organization will boost production by 25 percent and continue to operate more than 100 of its 150 meal sites not located at schools to feed those who rely on after-school programs for meals.

According to a release, the food bank will also find temporary locations to replace school sites that will be closed because of the walkouts.

The boost in production will provide close to 9,000 meals per day if the closure extends beyond Friday.

Emergency food boxes filled with nonperishable items meant to last two to three days will be available for families, while grab-and-go children’s meals will be available at St. Mary’s locations in Phoenix and Surprise, Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Boys and Girls Clubs of Metro Phoenix will open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. starting Thursday.

Club members will have priority as space at each location was limited, but nonmembers can pay $20 per day, if there were any openings.

Each club will serve lunch and snacks.

In similar fashion, the Children’s Museum of Phoenix will be open to children effected by the walkouts. The museum announced they would offer reduced admission rates and day camps for children between the age of five and eight.

“The Children’s Museum of Phoenix is an educational destination for children dedicated to learning through play,” Marion Wiener, a museum representative, said.

“Providing reduced admission and day camps will allow children affected by the walkout the opportunity to continue learning through hands-on activities and engaging play experiences throughout the museum.”

The museum will offer $9 admission rates, a decrease from the normal $12 admission rate. Children can participate in day camps for $50 per day, which also ensures them to receive a camp T-shirt.

Normally closed on Mondays, the museum announced it would remain open to accommodate families if the school closure extended into next week.

Wildlife World Zoo, Aquarium and Safari Park in Litchfield Park will also offer free admission for children with every adult admission on Thursday and Friday to support students during the walkout.

“Being a former teacher for 19 years, educating future generations is not only my passion, but the basis of which, Wildlife World is built upon,” Mickey Ollson, director and founder of the zoo, said in a release.

The Phoenix Zoo announced Wednesday that it would do the same.

Despite announcing their schools would be closed, the Scottsdale Unified School District, Madison School District and Cave Creek Unified School District all had plans to feed students who rely on meal-assistance programs.

“Pretty much every school is paired up with another school in our district and we have different people bringing food down to them,” Mike Peabody, president of the Scottsdale Parents Council, said.

“Any and all food collected for this is going to go to several different churches in the area who have said they will take (Scottsdale) kids in. They’ll help, they’ll give them a safe place to be.”

Peabody added that donations of nonperishable food items would be helpful.

The Madison School District announced late Monday it would be closing all of its schools, but said breakfast and lunch services will be provided to students.

All meals will be served from the Madison Park Commons on Thursday and Friday.

Cave Creek Unified School District informed parents that students who had already been approved for free and reduced lunch would be able to pick up breakfast/lunch packs for Thursday and Friday at Desert Sun Academy.

In addition, the district announced that YMCAs were offering drop-in daycare. Fees for members were $50; nonmembers will have to pay $75 per day.

The Washington Elementary School District will also offer free breakfast and lunch at all of its 32 schools and childcare will be offered at 13 locations for $20 per day, per child during the length of the statewide walkout.

While schools and organizations were offering assistance during the closure, a local church believed it was their “duty” to help those in need.

“We are working with school administrators to make this as painless as possible,” Rock Fremont, pastor at the Southwest Conference United Church of Christ, said.

“This is what I would call our Christian duty, to be welcoming to those who need help.”

The church was planning to open its doors to assists parents who work during the day and are scrambling to find a solution for their children during the walkout.

Fremont said that the church is accepting volunteers to ensure the children who seek a place to stay have adequate supervision.

Other organizations were opening their doors to help during the school closures.

The Children’s Action Alliance has produced a list of those willing to help with daycare and meal assistance across the state.

The South Phoenix Missionary Baptist Church will offer free breakfast to children affected by the closure from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. on Thursday.

The Salvation Army will offer child care and food options Thursday and Friday. Food will be available, while supplies last, between 10 a.m. and noon both days. The nonprofit had enough food to feed at least 100 families each day at the following sites:

• Apache Junction Corps, 605 E. Broadway Road
• Avondale Estrella Mountain Corps, 11 N. Third Ave.
• Casa Grande Corps, 1333 N. Center St.
• Chandler Corps, 85 E. Saragosa St.
• Glendale Corps, 6010 W. Northern Ave.
• Glendale Valley of the Sun Korean Corps, 7238 N. 61st Ave.
• Green Valley Service Center, 555 N. La Cañada Dr., Suite 101
• Mesa Corps, 241 E. Sixth St.
• Phoenix Central Corps, 4343 N. 16th St.
• Phoenix Citadel Corps, 628 N. Third Ave.
• Phoenix Maryvale Corps, 4318 W. Clarendon Ave.
• Ray & Joan Kroc Corps Community Center Phoenix South Mountain, 1375 E. Broadway Road
• Sun Cities West Valley Corps, 17420 N. Avenue of the Arts Blvd., Surprise
• Tempe Corps, 40 E. University Drive
• Tucson Amphi Corps, 218 E. Prince Road
• Tucson South Corps, 1625 S. Third Ave.
• Tucson Temple/Korean Corps, 1001 N. Richey Blvd.

The Kroc Center will also offer child care from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. for the first two days of the walkout. Eligible ages were 5-12. The center can take up to 200 children a day. Fees varied.

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Ali Vetnar contributed to this report.

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