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SAFE Parks needs funding for summer program

The SAFE Parks Program, entertaining and enriching the lives of kids in Park Rapids, Akeley and Guthrie, is facing a funding crunch.

The program that welcomed more than 300 children last summer for games, crafts and camaraderie could be cut in half, unless more funding is realized before summer, according to Susan Bowland, program administrator.

Township and county donations are down, she said. And the major contributor, the Child Abuse Prevention Council, has cut their amount to $2,000, a third of what's been added to the coffers in the past.

Children in Akeley and Park Rapids are currently served five days a week, with early childhood development personnel on site from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

The free service asks that kids under 6 be accompanied by a parent.

There's a need for support of children in the summer, Akeley's SAFE instructor and "Mother Hen" Andrea Thelin said of the program. The service is of assistance to parents in low-income households, she explained. "And the kids have a good time."

Children in the program learn social skills and discuss issues such as talking to strangers, she said. "It's an adult who's there for them."

"We're not just helping children," said Lori Langton who greets kids arriving in Heartland Park. Moms arrive to socialize and share the fun - and trials and tribulations - of parenthood.

Grandparents and summer residents are also among the gang taking up badminton, beading and blowing bubbles in the park.

"It brings people together," Langton said.

"Where else will these children go?" Bowland said.

Contributions for the program may be sent to the Headwaters Intervention Center (indicate SAFE) at PO Box 564, Park Rapids, MN 56470.

For more information, contact Bowland at 732-7413.