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Who We Are

Friendship Place offers after school programs to elementary children. During the afternoon program (4 to 5:30) children are helped with homework, offered a healthy snack, might have a cooking or sewing class, and can work on a craft project. A beautiful back yard with a large sand box encourages outdoor play. The children's 4-H garden, which always produces entries for the county fair, is tended from May into November. Afternoon attendance has averaged between twenty and twenty-five students of the 42 who have registered. They represent 4 different races and nationalities. Volunteers for the evening program (7 to 8:30) all enjoy working with the older middle school, high school and college students. Evening tutoring often involves helping a student write an English composition, reviewing math homework, or doing research on line. Up to twenty different students come for help at night. Many are regular attendees who we have worked with for many years and have seen progress from childhood to responsible young adults. In addition, Friendship Place offers a summer program of eight to ten weeks for elementary and middle school children. Supporting churches run the summer programs on a week-to-week basis. A typical day would include special reading classes, crafts, games, healthy snacks, and outdoor play. In past summers we have collaborated with 4-H, Camp Victory, Vista/Americorp, Rochester Summer of Service and Project Get Outdoors to broaden the summer experience.

What We Do

Friendship Place is a volunteer outreach to the children and families who live in southeast Rochester. The neighborhood is predominately populated by minorities and low-income residents, most of whom are recent immigrants, migrant workers, or newcomers to Rochester. The mission of Friendship Place is ?to provide a safe, caring environment where people of all races, ethnic groups and religions can always find a friend. Friendship Place had its origins around 1994. A woman named Sandy Cookman was running an urban ministry for troubled teens called Christian Youth Outreach. Many of the teens that attended Christian Youth Outreach asked Sandy to intervene in the lives of their younger siblings so that they would not grow up to be in trouble as teens, as they were. Sandy felt motivated to do this, but Christian Youth Outreach was focused on teens and could not handle the additional ministry to elementary-aged children as well. Sandy was friends with another woman named Coyla Shephard from First Baptist Church, and asked her to prayerfully consider getting involved in the ministry to inner-city elementary-aged children, and Coyla felt a burden to do this. They recruited others to help. For the first few years, the program was run during the summer at the Meadow Park Church of Christ, out on the lawn. About fifty children attended, attracted by the popsicles, donuts, games and stories. At the end of each summer's program, the children begged them not to leave, but to stay and teach some more. After a few years of the week long summer programs, they felt the need to have a more regular presence in the neighborhood, and in the fall of 1997 began an after-school program called the Monday After School Club at Meadow Park Church, where they played games with the children and gave homework help. The population of the area began to change, because the Cambodian immigrants were beginning to get established, get better jobs, and move away from the Meadow Park area. The new immigrant wave brought Somalis fleeing from a civil war in their own country. They were predominantly Muslim, and would not allow their children to come into the church. As the population of the area changed, attendance at the after school program dropped to less than fifteen children a day. After prayerful consideration, and a generous donation from First Baptist Church, they rented a one bedroom apartment in the Meadow Park Apartments, and by the March of 1999 the Monday After School Club had a new home and a new name - Friendship Place was born. Attendance continued to increase, and Friendship Place quickly outgrew the one bedroom apartment. During 2001 Friendship Place upgraded to use a two bedroom apartment. This was a basement-level apartment and was flooded and broken into several times. The lighting was poor, and once after returning to the apartment following a spring break, the volunteers found mushrooms growing in the carpet. Friendship Place needed to search for other facilities. Directly across the street from the Meadow Park apartments was an Olmsted County building that had originally been used by the as a home for wayward boys, and was currently being used by Olmsted County Social Services. The county was not able to make use of the facilities, and was looking for a new renter. The county did a lot of work to remodel the building for our use. They finished the basement, replaced the doors and windows, and did a lot of repair work. We moved in to the building on July 1, 2003, and we have been there ever since. We have a library, a computer room, a kitchen, a sewing room, several study rooms, and two large main-floor rooms that are used for crafts, homework help, and tutoring. One of our volunteers lives on the second floor there year-round and maintains the property, and our program director works there every school day. We are a part of the Meadow Park neighborhood. Since 2003, Friendship Place has worked with the Rochester Board of Parks and Recreation to turn the vacant lot next door, the former site of a crack house, into a community park, with playground equipment, park benches, and picnic tables. We have been told that it is the most frequently used of all of the Rochester parks.


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