Dordt College News

College kids come to Kidzone

August 22, 2009


Kidzone is an afterschool club for elementary and middle school age children in Sioux Center, but lately it’s also become a place for Dordt and Northwestern college kids to get their “family fix.”

“I have a three-year-old niece, and I miss her less when I spend time here,” says Andrea Kaisand, a Dordt sophomore from Bussey, IA. “I enjoy being with little kids, and I like helping others,” she adds as reasons for serving as a volunteer at Kidzone. When living in a college dorm gets a little stressful, she appreciates the opportunity to get away from campus and interact on a different level.

Kidzone offers a safe place for all school children in the community to come after school Tuesdays and Thursdays from 3-6 p.m., at no cost to participants. A snack is served and a variety of activities are offered to children in TK-6th grade. Mindy Van Beek, Director of Family Life Ministries at First Reformed Church, directs and oversees the program, which is held in the Family Life Center at the church. Mindy’s hired assistants are Margie Baker and Lois Cleveringa, and at least eight volunteers are needed for each session. Partners in supporting the program with volunteers and donations include Dordt and Northwestern Colleges, First National Bank, Kiwanis Club, Primebank, and Sioux Center Cardiac Care.

More than 100 elementary and middle school students regularly attended Kidzone last year. They came from 29 churches, as well as some not being affiliated with a church.

The success of the program has led to a need for more volunteers to supervise young participants. Last year more than 20 college students helped fill the need, providing kids with “a place they can come to find hope and love in a tough world.”

“It’s been the greatest blessing, seeing all the churches and schools come together,” says Van Beek. “We have home-school, public, and Christian school kids, with support and volunteers from several churches and both colleges, all coming together … now that’s community!”

This year Dordt College’s Community Outreach Program (COP) came to the rescue when the kid count topped the 200 mark. College-funded and student-run, COP gives students the opportunity to volunteer in area agencies and ministries to support and enhance their classroom learning.

Megan De Groot is an elementary education student at Dordt who volunteers regularly. She’s quick to point out, “I’m not doing it for practice, I do it because I love it.” She enjoyed it so much that’s she’s recruited about a dozen additional Dordt volunteers into the program. College volunteers play games in the gym, help kids with homework, assist mini-chefs with baking days, and do crafts with the children. On one particular day last spring,

Megan helped kids create terrariums out of two-liter pop bottles.
De Groot, a senior from Sunnyside, WA, even recruited her brother to the zone. A freshman business major, Mike had some free time and joined his sister for an afternoon, and was hooked. “It’s a great break, and you meet lots of great kids,” says Mike. It’s clear from the children hanging from him like monkey bars that the feeling is mutual.

“I’d be at a babysitter if I wasn’t here,” says third grader Ashley Perez. “It’s a lot more fun to be here with friends.” Her favorite activity is gym, while her friend Karlee Albert says art and cooking are the things she looks forward to the most.

But it’s more than just fun and games: a six-year-old once thanked Van Beek for letting him come to Kidzone, saying on the other days of the week he wished he didn’t have to go home. “There’s a lot of hurting children in our community, and sometimes parents are the last ones kids will turn to,” says Van Beek. “When we pour ourselves into the lives of others, we can make a difference in these children’s lives.” Van Beek said the families can see how much the volunteers love their kids and the difference they are making in their lives.

In the upcoming year, Kidzone plans to add two Mondays a month to the schedule, providing a safe enjoyable afternoon for children during early dismissal days for teacher in-service. Van Beek also hopes to add a monthly meal night with a small group of families to reach out and support those that are not being helped in other ways.

Volunteers are always welcomed at Kidzone, and donated snacks or funds for the program are also appreciated. To receive a brochure or get more information about the program, contact Mindy Van Beek, 722-1864 or

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