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Providing for youth

Pastor Eric Barnes, with the First Baptist Church in Ironton, sits with local youth during snack time at the after school program Thursday.

Pastor Eric Barnes, with the First Baptist Church in Ironton, sits with local youth during snack time at the after school program Thursday.

After school program making difference for children

Nearly 20 years ago, former pastor of Ironton First Baptist Church Dennis Strawn saw many children head to the library after school and wanted to start an after school program at the church. Strawn, along with Linda Mann, who was a member at the church and worked at Ironton City Schools at the time, organized the program and built it to what it has become now.

Today, that program draws approximately 60 children from the community, two days a week, where they have a meal, a lesson and a chance to spend time with friends and peers playing or working on homework.

Pastor Eric Barnes, who used to serve as the youth pastor, currently runs the program and said he really enjoys being able to make a difference in the children’s lives.

“They (Strawn and Mann) had the program running for many years before I became the youth pastor, but as youth pastor I did lessons with them for years,” Barnes said. “I love being around the kids. The energy is great and I love just teaching the word to them because you never know which ones are hearing that at home or not.” This year marks Barnes’ 18th year at Ironton First Baptist Church.

First, second and third grade children take part in the program on Tuesdays, while fourth and fifth graders attend on Thursdays.

“I enjoy how everyone gets along and it’s fun after school,” Angel Smith, fifth grader at Ironton Elementary School, said. “Some people don’t like going home right after school and like to have fun. The staff is really nice and they provide food for kids that might not have food when they go home.”

Ironton Elementary fifth grader Katelyn Cecil said she likes the program because she enjoys learning about God.

“I like coming here because I love going to church and other people don’t have the same opportunities as I do,” she said. “I like being with my friends and sitting together, talking, playing and learning about God together.”

Besides the after school program, the church also provides youth night on Wednesday evenings for junior high and high school students.

“It’s important to plant the seeds of God’s truth at such a young age,” Barnes said.