The Outreach Center offers many programs to benefit disadvantaged individuals in Burke County and the surrounding counties in western North Carolina.

TOC is a 501©(3) nonprofit organization that assists with hunger relief, job training, education and the arts to break the cycle of generational poverty.

Its newest program, “Wishes, Opportunities and Wonder,” referred to as “WOW,” began in July 2019. Children in the program, ages 5 to 18, are provided with nutrition classes, exercise programs, tutoring and education in art, music and culture. Basic needs of food, clothing and school supplies also are provided.

“This program is to help children find their voices and work boldly exploring their passions and interests,” said Bianca Moses, director of community relations for The Outreach Center. “It’s important to understand this is not about giving children free activities. Accountability and investment are very important.”

The WOW program provides opportunities through the organization’s Arts and Cultural Program through partnerships with other community businesses, allowing extracurricular activities to children in poverty.

“Our program provides music lessons, currently in guitar, ukulele, banjo, piano and violin; art lessons through collaboration with TOSS; and soon, performing arts, launching this summer,” Moses said. “We are also working to provide voice lessons by a classically trained opera singer.”

Todd Greene, developmental director of The Outreach Center, teaches guitar, ukulele and banjo. Kathy Learner teaches piano and Mary Ervin teaches violin.

Another program in WOW is The Earned Instrument Program, developed by Greene. Each child taking music lessons has the opportunity to earn an instrument after completing 20 consecutive lessons within a five- to-six-month period.

Local artists started TOSS, an afterschool program, to teach painting, drawing, ceramics, sculpture, printmaking, textiles and photography to students at affordable rates to open them up to creativity and critical thinking.

The center also partners with Tumblemania, Taber’s Black Belt Academy, Bone Breaker Gym, The Dance Factory of Morganton, Sherri’s School of Dance, Burke County 4-H, Pony Palooza, the Morganton Parks and Recreation Department and Burke Heat Basketball for extracurricular activities for WOW participants.

“Some teachers volunteer, but most of the opportunities require sponsorship from members of the community,” Moses said.

The children in the WOW program learn eight core values:

» Gratitude: Always be thankful for something and remember to say “thank you”

» Honesty: Being truthful with yourself and others

» Kindness: Treating yourself and others well and putting others before yourself

» Diligence: Putting a lot of effort into your work

» Curiosity: Excitement when learning

» Perseverance: not quitting or giving up when things get hard

» Commitment: being invested and dedicated to someone or something

» Compassion: concern for others when they are having a hard time

“We hold monthly Breakfast Club meetings where we introduce one of our eight core values,” Moses said. “In March, we are working on ‘Gratitude.’ We will be reading books on gratitude, kids are given a 30-day gratitude journal and we have discussions on demonstrating gratitude. In April, we will learn ‘Kindness.’”

In spring and summer, Nicki Carpenter, an agent with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension-Burke County Center specializing in 4-H and youth development, will teach classes on seed germination, plot planning, soil testing, vermicomposting and hay bale gardening in the community garden plot at Catawba Meadows Park.

“A portion of the garden will be ‘The Giving Garden,’” Moses said. “Food grown will be donated to hunger relief in Burke County.”

The center needs volunteers for music, after school tutoring, community events, the backpack program, the thrift store and end-of-the-month food distribution.

Sponsors also are needed to fund the programs.

“WOW is designed to empower children to dream about a future where anything is possible,” Moses said. “It is a very holistic program that embraces the entire child and their family. Children only know what they know, and we want them to know a lot.”

The Outreach Center is located at 512 E. Fleming Dr. in Morganton.

For more information or to volunteer, call 828-439-8300 or visit www.theoutreachcenter.org.

Barbara Jolly-Deakle is a News Herald correspondent and a member of the Morganton Writers’ Group. She can be reached at BabbyWrites@CompasCable.net.

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