By Chelsi Baker
Times West Virginian
It all started with a small library, filled wall-to-wall with books.
612 MAC Madison Avenue Corporation was founded in 1987 by Herschel Walker and Frank Hines as a safe place for children to go to learn and stay out of trouble.
Anna McCright, 612 MAC’s first executive director, dedicated her own time after her teaching job to educate children after school, teaching them the importance of books and the privilege to learn.
She ran the library, which is behind what is now the main building.
It was the first black community center in Fairmont.
Now, the organization has recently gained 501(c) status and works to better the lives of needy children in the community through education and volunteering.
It has held various community service events and fundraisers over the years, including a sub sandwich sale, car washes, Christmas turkey giveaways and even a teen angel tree to ensure older children get presents on their Christmas wish lists.
Its backpack program is the center’s most recent effort.
Backpacks filled with nonperishable foods will be distributed to children at the end of each week so they have plenty to eat over the weekend while not in school or at on Madison Street.
Every Monday, children return the backpacks, which are then refilled with food and redistributed again that Friday.
The center also sponsored football and cheerleading for older students, and created the Bulldogs football team. While it is still affiliated with 612 MAC, the team now has a separate 501(c) filing from them.
A board of directors, consisting of seven members from different educational backgrounds and skill sets and socioeconomic upbringings, oversees 612 MAC’s events.
The center is currently under construction and is being completely remodeled inside to better accommodate its students.
Fundraising efforts and donations fund the project, which has been under way for the past two years.
“I would be silly to say that we don’t worry about money, but up to this point, everything has fallen into place, said director of public relations Amber Walker. “We’ve just been blessed. Blood, sweat and tears, and faith, is what we’ve been going on. Definitely.”
Mon YouthBuild also came to Madison Street to help with the renovation as part of last year’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service.
612 MAC will reopen its doors to children for an after-school tutoring program Feb. 10 that will run Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 3-6 p.m.
The program is free to all students.
The organization will start busing students from Watson and Jayenne elementary schools to Madison Street when the program begins, and children will remain at the center until parents or someone over 18 years old picks them up.
They anticipate having 20-30 students.
The goal is to continue the work McCright, Walker and Hines started, and to keep their dreams alive by providing children free, quality education, Walker said.
“Here, you don’t ‘get what you pay for,’” she said. “It’s free, but it doesn’t mean there’s second-rate individuals who just come in and teach the kids something they don’t even know themselves. We have teachers. What they teach is the discipline they decided to study in school.”
The program will put learning first, keeping all activities educational in some way.
“This is definitely not a babysitting service. Every single hour they’re here, there is something planned for them,” said Walker. “This is a tutoring program for these students to learn and enhance their education. We want them to be able to come here and have fun, but that’s after their homework is done and they learn what they need to learn from school that day.”
Volunteers will teach and offer field trips based on students’ interests, along with a set curriculum.
For students, time with teaching volunteers shows them they can have role models that look like them and live in their community, and they can go on to reach their dreams, Watson said.
“It’s nice for some of our kids to know that their heroes can be somebody (who) lives three houses down or right across the street. Here, our volunteers are at all different income levels and education levels, and from all different backgrounds.
“The appreciation comes when they ask a question and you answer it without them having to get your attention. They feel like they’re being paid attention to and that they’re somebody.”
612 MAC will also offer a day program in the summer, based on the same foundation as the after-school program, for its students.
The organization is partnering with the Junior Master Gardener program to start a community garden as part of the summer program.
Volunteers also plan to pant a tree in front of the building as a memorial for the center’s original founders.
“612 MAC is here to stay,” said executive director Kimberly Brooks. “I want to continue on with the vision started from day one, to be able to reach out to kids in the community to ensure they have a solid foundation so they can take it and be able to move forward in their adult life.”
Parents may pick up application packets for the after-school program from 1-4 p.m. at 612 Madison St. or request a packet email@example.com.
Email Chelsi Baker at firstname.lastname@example.org.