Hats off to the Waynesville Recreation Center for seeing a community need and stepping forward to address it.

This month, the town recreation center started an after- school program for elementary children. The center is an old-hand at managing popular programs for youth, as their summer camp programs have been around for years.

The two-year-old Base Camp program added an added dimension by adding new types of outdoor activities, plus a way to bring the programs to outlying communities.

The after-school program now being offered is yet another way the center serves the community and beyond.

The center’s latest program springs from a lack of alternate solutions for a safe place younger students can stay between the end of a school day and when their parents get off work.

There’s plenty of research showing the consequences of allowing children to stay at home alone between 3:30 and 5:30 p.m., not to mention state child neglect laws that could come into play.

But what are working parents to do if they have no family members to help out and school, church, public or private options aren’t available?

Luckily, Haywood County is much more of an area focused on finding solutions that resorting to complaining and handwringing.

Recognizing the problem with a lack of safe places for middle-schoolers to hang out, the United Methodist Church in Waynesville started an after-school program for those in middle school years ago and was serving up to 75 at the end of the 2018 school year. A summer fund-raising effort was launched to augment the program and serve even more students.

Two years ago, Long’s Chapel United Methodist Church in Clyde recognized the lack of options for parents with elementary students who needed an after-school place to study and let off steam after a day of classes. It’s after-school program now serves 100, but there’s still a waiting list.

While Waynesville Middle School students can easily walk to the church, Long’s Chapel arranged for students to take buses to it’s Clyde campus, which makes the program accessible to students in multiple parts of the county. Both church programs are offered at no cost.

Elementary schools offer an after-school option, but these posts fill up quickly, leaving a void in some school districts. That’s where the Waynesville Recreation Center after-school program can come in handy.

The program costs $40 a week or $10 a day, but offers not only a safe, but a fun place where students can study, play or be together until their parents get off work.

The recreation center program is yet another example of how leaders in Haywood meet community needs, and yet another reason people who live in this county can count themselves lucky.

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