Serving the underserved
What: Wellspring Interfaith Social Services offers programs to benefit the well-being of children, their parents and older adults.
•Food bank: 9-11:30 a.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays; 5-7:30 p.m. Tuesdays; 2:30-4 p.m. Thursdays; and 9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Saturdays.
•Older Adult Program: 9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays through Fridays. Field trips provide enrichment opportunities.
•Youth After School Program: At Study Elementary School, 3:30-6 p.m. Mondays; at Wellspring, 3:30-8 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays, 3:30-6 p.m. Wednesdays, and 3:30-6:30 p.m. Fridays; and at Lindley Elementary School, 3:30-6 p.m. Wednesdays.
•Youth Summer Day Camp Program: 9:30 a.m.-12:45 p.m. at Plymouth Congregational, Trinity English Lutheran, St. Mary Catholic and Trinity Episcopal churches. Lunch, provided by Fort Wayne Community Schools, is served afterward at Moody Park.
•Parent Club: 1-3 p.m. Wednesdays during the school year; 9:30 a.m.-noon Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays during the summer.
Where: 1316 Broadway Ave., as well as at local inner-city churches and schools.
The three women waited patiently as the cook was busy prepared the noon meal and other seniors put away bingo cards.
On this last Friday in August, Wellspring Interfaith Social Services' Older Adult Program celebrated the August birthdays of Kay Ferry, Beth Lawrence and Marion Abernathy.
Wellspring provides programs for all ages, promoting the well-being of children, parents and older adults.
At the birthday recognition, which is held the last Friday of each month, birthday honorees are encouraged to talk about themselves and share items that have special meaning to them, allowing group members to learn interesting tidbits about the honorees.
Ferry spoke about her visits to the Berlin Wall and Dachau concentration camp in Germany, a camp another senior later told the group his father helped liberate. Ferry also told the group her mother kept her pregnancy a secret, then shocked relatives when she showed Ferry to them for the first time.
Lawrence spoke about the importance of her grandchildren and great-grandchildren and how important it is to learn from life's lessons.
Abernathy, a newcomer to Fort Wayne and third-time visitor to the program, explained how she, a native New Yorker, ended up living in Fort Wayne and how she got lost trying to find the building, and then she showed everyone a novelty item from her M&M collection.
Gayle Mann, who directs the Older Adult Program at Wellspring, said recognizing birthdays is just one way to find out more about seniors.
“We take the time to hear their stories. So many times we ask, 'How are you?' but you don't hear about them,” she said.
The program also features field trips, guest speakers, services focusing on health issues, gardening and intergenerational opportunities with children in Wellspring's Youth After School Program.
Frank Zirille, Wellspring executive director, said intergenerational topics range from depression to hip-hop, but the result is the same.
“Every generation is really the same,” Zirille said. “With my parents, it was the Charleston. With me, it was Woodstock. We all go through that gaining our independence. We're really one and the same.”
The Youth After School Program also offers homework help, a reading club and recreational activities to the approximately 300-plus children who attend. Some youth meet at Wellspring, while others meet at Study and Lindley elementary schools, he said
The Youth Summer Day Camp is another popular program and is offered on a first-come, first-serve basis. This summer, 548 children attended at the program's four downtown church locations — Plymouth Congregational, Trinity English Lutheran, St. Mary Catholic and Trinity Episcopal. Teachers speak about core values and the 40 Developmental Assets, which teach support, empowerment, positive values and positive identity, Zirille said.
“This is a really strong program for Wellspring. It is a city camp for city kids,” Zirille said.
Wellspring also offers a program for their parents. The Parent Club meets Wednesdays during the school year and Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays during the summer. This program helps parents develop life skills, such as nutrition, health and budgeting of finances.
As part of Associated Churches of Fort Wayne and Allen County's food bank system, Wellspring's food bank is open six days a week for residents within the borders of the St. Marys River on the north and west, Calhoun Street on the east and Taylor Street on the south.
The food bank receives 40 percent of its food donations from Associated Churches, congregations and food drives, Zirille said, but Wellspring purchases 60 percent.
To receive help from the food bank, people in need must show a picture ID, provide a Social Security number for everyone age 18 and older in the household, have current post-marked mail and must provide ages and birthdates for everyone in the household.
“We're just glad to be available to people who have a tough time,” he said.
All programs are offered free of charge, Zirille said.