OKEECHOBEE – Serious about You Sidewalk Ministry (SAY) has relocated to Kiwanis Park.
SAY began almost five years ago with one purpose in mind — to build up the self-esteem of the children the volunteers encounter. They want to let the children know there are alternatives to their lifestyles. Carol McGurn heads up the program. McGurn retired from teaching at North Elementary School a few years ago and is also a licensed minister.
During the first year, the group worked in the area around Central Elementary School, and then, they began meeting at the Okeechobee County School District Operations Building with approval from Superintendent Ken Kenworthy.
Serious About You meets with the children once a week on Saturdays at 10 a.m. They do character building lessons on things like honoring your parents, anger management and bullying. They also do quick, five-minute home visits once a week to check in and see how the kids are doing. The lessons last about an hour. They play games, have a snack, win prizes, etc. Each meeting begins with music, and each lesson is interactive. Sometimes they use puppets, sometimes dramas, sometimes Power Points, stories or videos. They try to vary the methods to keep it interesting. “The kids don’t just sit there and listen. It’s interactive,” said McGurn. “We get them active and involved.”
The meetings are faith-based but are non-denominational. They do not force religion on anyone, she said.
“We are just trying to help give children some coping skills to help with daily struggles with things at home or school or in the community. We want them to know they are loved, we believe in them, and that they will grow up to be productive members of society,” said McGurn.
"We believe that Okeechobee children have a right to and need to hear that they are loved and they have a purpose and positive future. SAY presents lessons that encourage, teach, and demonstrate how to become outstanding productive citizens in their homes and community.
“We not only provide spiritual encouragement but have provided financial aide to a family whose father/husband had cancer and they were lacking money for medication. We provided another family with three children including a son struggling academically with a computer,” said McGurn.
Any child is welcome to attend, but the lessons are geared toward ages 5 to about 13 years old. Fountain of Life Church is its umbrella organization, and the program is sponsored by the Children’s Services Council of Okeechobee County. If interested, just show up at Kiwanis Park, 350 N.W. Sixth Avenue, at 10 a.m. on Saturday.