Essence Smith, Executive Assistant at Kids Safe Zone (left), and Ericka Alston-Buck, Founder and Executive Director of Kids Safe Zone (right)
Ericka Alston-Buck, the founder of Kids Safe Zone, a 2016 grantee, captivated an audience of about 50 Circle members on November 15th at the Circle Forum event held at the Church of the Redeemer. Ms. Alston-Buck described how she started Kids Safe Zone in the Penn-North community following the unrest after the death of Freddie Gray. Kids Safe Zone, a drop-in center, is open from 2:00 until 8:00 each weekday and all day on weekday non-school days. Children ages 5 to 17 come to Kids Safe Zone to do homework, read, play on X-boxes, watch TV, and engage in other activities. Kids Safe Zone also organizes field trips, provides mentors for the children to help with homework and arranges a day camp for 150 children during the summer.
Ms. Alston-Buck described her path to establishing Kids Safe Zone. She shared her experience of having her first child at the age of 15 and then becoming addicted to crack cocaine at the age of 26. After recovering from her addiction, Ms. Alston-Buck went on to assist other addicts in establishing attainable goals during recovery. Before starting Kids Safe Zone, Ms. Alston-Buck started her own public relations firm in Baltimore, worked at Baltimore radio station WMAQ and, most recently, served as Marketing Director for the Penn-North Community Resource Center.
Ms. Alston-Buck’s skill in helping other addicts in recovery led her to the belief that children’s needs in the Penn-North community could be met by a comprehensive after-school program. She requires every child at Kids Safe Zone to do homework first and read for at least 15 minutes. She also asks that each child draw, dance, help out and most importantly get a hug from a staff member each day.
Ms. Alston-Buck’s efforts have led to national recognition for Kid Safe Zones. She has received donations from around the country and is astonished at the response Kids Safe Zone has gotten. She shared with the group that everyday the staff receives checks to aid the program, which is entirely self-sufficient and does not rely on funding from the City.
Ms. Alston-Buck, a mother of four, is a gifted leader with a dynamic spirit who believes in the futures of the children in the Penn-North community and their families. As she succinctly put it, “we are the good news in Baltimore.”
Anyone interested in visiting, making a donation or volunteering can contact Kids Safe Zone at 410-728-2080 or firstname.lastname@example.org.