Shiloh Arms is an apartment complex in Oak Park. Sounds secure and wild, doesn’t it? There is a diversity of Southeast Asians, Hispanics and Black people living there. Living in these low income apartments, most parents and guardians are too exhausted from working or too old to watch over their grade school children, therefore leaving them to do as they please. The kids are running themselves to sleep daily with probably only 2 things to look forward to; School and the program after school in Shiloh Arms.
Right after school, the excited kids run home to check in, then zoom off to ATAP (All Things are Possible) located directly in their living area, which is funded by the Pacific Affordable Housing Corp. The main coordinator Mr. James gladly greets them, usually handling the group of anxious students by himself. He makes sure they finish their homework with help from the older 5th and 4th grade students and sets them off to read books, play with toys, and get on some computer games, video games and other recreational activities. After the day hits about 3:30, he offers them healthy snacks in the form of apple slices, fruit juice and crackers.
Last year, I was a volunteer at this program. I got to work with Mr. James and the playful kids that come to the program. I have to say, it was a tiring but enjoyable time to spend my after school hours. Mr. James receives from 5 to about 20 students a day! The children are very respectful and thankful for the program. I can see it in their eyes when James threatens to send them home on days of disobedience.
When I sometimes drop by, I am still greeted by the children as “Mr. Bone”.