A site of community programs since 2010, Delaware's Second Ward Community Center was planning more activities before the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

The nonprofit organization is housed on city-owned property at 54 Ross St. and its free programs are open to everyone who lives in the city, said Karriejoi Coit, the center's director.

Its wide range of pre-pandemic activities included an annual health fair, Christmas party, wellness workshops for senior citizens, after-school tutoring for students, classes to help high school students prepare for the ACT and SAT college-admission tests and a self-worth, self-awareness program for girls, Coit said.

Last fall, the center was developing plans for storage space at the site that the city was no longer using, Coit said.

That included, but was not limited to, developing an area for activities such as yoga, dancing and performing arts, Coit said.

One of the center's goals is aiding the city's underserved population, but participants in the programs are not screened by income and anyone can benefit from them, she said.

Coit said center officials plan to change the name to Unity Community Center. No date for the name change to become effective has been determined.

The pandemic forced a stop to many of the center's traditional programs, Coit said, but the center is in contact with a number of residents via Zoom calls -- addressing, for example, coronavirus and health concerns -- and uses Zoom to continue its STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) club for students.

Coit said the center also is offering food services at a time when many families' income has been affected by the pandemic that forced a number of businesses to close.

For six weeks, the center has provided snack bags on Mondays, and it offers a food pantry of nonperishable food items and supplies that is open to residents by appointment, Coit said.

The center holds an outdoor farmers market from 4-6 p.m. every other Wednesday, she said. The next market is planned for July 1.

A produce-specific market is held 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Tuesday, and Coit said the food services will continue until further notice.

The center's efforts are assisted by a number of local organizations, including United Way of Delaware County.

"United Way of Delaware County has been happy to support the work of the Second Ward Community Center, especially during the pandemic," said Brandon Feller, United Way president.

"We have been able to grant $4,500 from the United Way COVID-19 fund to support their effort to provide fresh, nutritious food to residents of the community that struggle with food insecurity.

"Second Ward is a great example of a grassroots organization connected closely to the families that need assistance and they are well-positioned to help meet those needs."

The center's efforts also have been assisted by groups including the Stratford Ecological Center, 3083 Liberty Road; Lutheran Social Services Delaware County Food Pantry, 74 W. William St.; Delaware County Diaper Bank, which has multiple pickup locations throughout the county; the Delaware County Hunger Alliance, which provides meals, food and nutrition education opportunities throughout the area, and local churches, Coit said.

Tajudeen Bakare -- a Delaware resident, professional engineer and part-owner of Columbus-based CT Consultants Inc., an engineering, architecture and planning consultants firm -- has been the volunteer STEAM club leader since its inception and tutored students at the center before the pandemic.

Eighteen students are remote STEAM participants via Zoom, he said, drawn by the "science and technology and activities which they love."

Before the pandemic, he said, the club's meetings at the center attracted 24 to 35 students on average, in grades 4-12 when school was in session.

With or without the pandemic, the goal is to continue the club year-round, Bakare said.

"You don't need any break in education. You learn something every day," he said.

For more infomation, call 740-362-7611, visit the website, swcidelaware.org, or Facebook page "Second Ward Community Center."

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