Many Bonham Elementary students are Not Home Alone, thanks to Agape United Methodist Church.

The church offers a free after-school program to students attending Bonham. The program, called Not Home Alone, provides about 15 Bonham students with supervision, a snack and activities from 3-6 p.m. on school days.

The program is designed to fill the children’s time with constructive activities that can benefit them in the long run, says Joe Benavides, a church member and program co-founder.

“We knew there was a need in the community,” Benavides says. “The earlier we can get them started, the better off they’ll be. And the better off the community will be.”

Participating students are picked up from school, 2617 N. Henderson, and taken to the church by the program’s director, Ruben Saenz. They are provided a snack, have a study time with tutoring and then some type of recreation – either sports or a field trip.

Saenz says he also tries to use the session as an opportunity to talk to the children about life problems, such as violence or alcohol.

“I think they’re hungry for the fellowship, just to belong,” Saenz says. “This could be a program that values could be taught.”

When Saenz picks up the participating students at school, other students ask about the program. Some children have walked to the church from the school, knocked on the church’s windows and asked to participate, Saenz says.

“They do enjoy it,” Saenz says. “They want the attention, and they need the attention.”

“We are helping parents alleviate the burden of having to pay for services for their children after school,” Saenz says. “We also help alleviate the worries of leaving their children after school.”

Cristela Garza, Bonham’s principal, says the program helps protect the children from harmful situations that could occur while on their own.

“There’s so much going on out in the neighborhoods,” Garza says. “It’s really working well. It’s keeping these kids off the streets.”

Garza says about half of Bonham’s student population, which numbers more than 600, comes from households with no adult supervision in the afternoon.

“It’s really doing a service for the parents,” Garza says.

But it’s providing the biggest service to the students, Benavides says.

“It’s providing an environment for those kids that hopefully will keep them on the right track,” Benavides says.

“When they’re home alone, there’s no telling what they could get themselves into.”

For information, call Agape Memorial United Methodist Church at 826-8686.

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