`Kidz Nite Inn' provides one safe option to `deter children from street corners'

Citywide event draws 800 to churches, centers

July 01, 2000|By J. Kimball C. Payne | J. Kimball C. Payne,SUN STAFF

"Kidz Nite Inn," a citywide event to keep Baltimore's children safe, drew about 800 kids last night with fun and food at neighborhood churches and community centers.

"We want to deter the children from the street corners," said Kevia Elliott, president of Mission Baltimore, one of the organizers of the event. "[This] gives them an option."

About 50 youngsters were expected at each site for a total of about 700 children. As the evening progressed the numbers were much higher.

"We have over 75 children here alone," said the Rev. Douglas I. Miles, pastor of Koinonia Baptist Church on North Broadway. "We're going to be way over 700."

The program ran from 6 p.m. to midnight throughout the city. With participants from ages 8 to 18, the youths who attended Kidz Nite Inn played Twister, entered dance contests, attended lessons in nonviolence and caught up with friends.

Participants were free to take part in activities they found appealing and to come and go as they pleased. They also ate donatedhotdogs, popcorn and potato chips.

Dennis Donaldson, a spokesman for Center for Poverty Solutions, which helped plan the event, said furnishing a basic meal, including juice and fruit, was important because it, "brings children into these programs and keeps them there." The food was donated by Black Tie Catering.

Selwyn Ray, a community organizer for the Safe and Sound community action group, pointed to the presence of Grace Fellowship Church and Shiloh Ministries at Baltimore as proof of the appeal of last night's project.

"They are both churches from [Baltimore] county that are getting involved helping city kids," he said. "That just shows people this is serious."

Together, Grace and Shiloh provided more than 75 volunteers for the event.

"Kidz Night Inn" was developed by community action groups such as Mission Baltimore, Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance, Clergy United for Renewal in East Baltimore, Safe and Sound and Pastors in Unity for Park Heights among others. Organizers have tentatively scheduled two more events for this month and August.

Domonic Parker, 14, readily acknowledged that he has friends who sell drugs.

Asked why he doesn't, Domonic said: "Because I can come in here and hang out."

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