Images provided by Deneen Busby
There’s no place else Naia Nguyen and Timothy Grissom want to be after school than at the state-of-the-art Panda Cares Center of Hope, run by Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater St. Louis (BGCSTL).
“I like the decorations and the activities you can do here, especially the cooking station,” said Naia, 12, a 7th grader at Compton-Drew ILC Middle School, who sees being a pediatrician in her future.
Twelve-year-old Timothy Grissom, a 7th grader at St. Louis Language Immersion School, who is experiencing a dual language exposure to Spanish, French and Chinese, loves the activities, too.
Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater St. Louis (BGCSTL) and Panda Cares hosted a grand opening/ribbon cutting ceremony September 9th for a new culinary and arts space, Center of Hope (COH), at the Adams Park Club, 4317 Vista Ave. in Tower Grove.
Panda Cares is the foundational, non-profit arm of Panda Express, an American fast food restaurant chain that specializes in American Chinese cuisine. With over 2,200 locations nationally.
Through the partnership with Boys & Girls Clubs of America (BGCA), Panda Cares created COH at BGCSTL Adams Park Club to provide resources and support through Project Learn. Project Learn teaches youth different high-yield and enrichment programs that foster learning toward character building, academic success, and college access/success.
Panda Cares presented Boys & Girls Clubs with a $10,000 check for the new Center of Hope. Panda will also contribute an additional $15,000 to BGCSTL. Youth enjoyed Panda activities, free books, and a delicious meal from a local Panda Express during the grand opening.
The center is open to BGCSTL members, ages 5-16. The center is open 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursdays, and 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Fridays.
“If kids have hope and opportunity they can see success for themselves beyond today to grow up in a world that will give them the opportunities they deserve,” Fowler said.
Overcoming the social and economic obstacles too many children and families face makes Panda Cares Center of Hope another avenue for those in need to rise above the fray that society brings.
“It is a challenge because you have to deal with children and families where they are,” he said. “Everybody is not on a level playing field and some haven’t had a chance to even get on the field yet. How do you identify these needs that we have to put into place to address those needs and what other resources do we have to partner with to those needs to bear?”
The newly constructed culinary & arts space boasts laptops, art and crafts, cooking, and preparation necessities, including:
· Prep counters
· Storage space, shelving, and containers
· Cooking equipment
· Sinks/washing equipment.
For more information about Panda Cares Center of Hope, call 314-335-8000.
The mission of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater St. Louis (BGCSTL) is to inspire and enable all young people, especially those who need us most, to realize their full potential as productive, responsible, and caring citizens.
BGCSTL provides after-school, teen, sports, and summer programs to youth across the Bi-State Region while also providing a safe place for them to learn and grow.
The Clubs serve youth across the region at twelve locations, including (Adams Park Club, Bentwood Townhomes Bethalto Club, Lovejoy Club, Hazelwood Elementary School Club, Herbert Hoover Club, Mathews-Dickey Club, O’Fallon Park Club, Riverview Gardens Club, Hazelwood Southeast Middle School Club, and the Teen Center of Excellence). BGCSTL also operates the Mentor St. Louis and the St. Louis Internship Program.