‘Launchpad’ re-launches at the First Covenant Church

A familiar after-school program is “relaunching” in Red Oak Feb. 7.
Melissa MacDonald is the program coordinator for “Launchpad,” which is an after-school learning opportunity for kids on Wednesday afternoons. The program will run every Wednesday until the end of the school year, except on days where the school is on vacation, or is cancelled for weather.
“The program will be held from 2 to 4 p.m. at the First Covenant Church at 211 E. Hammond St. The program is open to kids in kindergarten through sixth grade. We’re trying to ‘launch’ kids, specifically in the areas of reading, math or any of their homework needs,” MacDonald said.
Participants in the program can sign up, to rotate to different areas for various needs.
“Every kid that comes to Launchpad reads out loud or is read to for at least 20 minutes. We’ll do some physical education exercise, and provide them good, healthy snacks. We’re providing kids a safe place to be in that afternoon when sometimes kids don’t have a place to be,” commented MacDonald.
Launchpad saw a revision in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic when students were doing remote learning, and remote learning space was offered at Faith Community Church. With the COVID-19 pandemic in the review mirror, the program is returning to its after-school roots.
“We don’t have to wear masks now, which is really nice, and the kids aren’t coming in to do remote learning, they just have a space to be. If they have homework, we work on it. If their parent or caregiver says they’re struggling in math, we’ll step in and do math worksheets with them, or do that if they’re struggling with reading,” MacDonald explained. “That makes Launchpad really unique. We have a lot more flexibility. There isn’t a set curriculum they have to get through. We can join with the parent or caregiver and ask how we can help them. There’s a spot on the registration for parents to mention if their child needs help in any particular areas.”
The program is being re-kickstarted after taking a year off due to busy schedules.
“Being a foster mom is a lot of work and I had a lot of things going on, so I took a little break. We also wanted to find a space that was a little closer to the downtown, so if kids want to walk, they can without crossing Highway 34. First Covenant Church and its pastor, Alan Dean, have been huge supporters and have cleaned out rooms for us to use in their building. We took a break, but now we’re back, and we want this to remain an ongoing, annual program,” advised MacDonald.
Also, every week the child has to check in, and the Launchpad staff will confirm whether they have homework or not, and make sure they get it done.
“They go home with full bellies from yummy snacks, their homework is done, and they’ve had a chance to play. It’s just a great opportunity,” MacDonald commented.
 A number of kids have already signed up for the program, and there is still space for more.
“We ask that everyone registers through the Facebook page, facebook.com/LaunchpadlearningRO. Our cap is 30 kids, and we have nine registered, so we have room for more. We do charge a small registration fee of $15 per child for the rest of the school year, but we never want cost to be an issue, so we will make sure your child can be a part of it, even if you do not have the funds for it,” stated MacDonald. “Also, we have space for 30 kids, so you can register at any time before the end of the school year, as long as we have space available. If a parent wants to do something after spring break, as an example, and we still have space, we’re happy to take them.”
MacDonald has a long history of helping kids learn, saying she’s worked with kids for 20 years, primarily in church settings.
“I’m a well-known speaker in the area of children’s ministry, and I have a book coming out later this month on kids. I’ve always loved kids. I also love parents. Their jobs are hard. I love partnering with parents or caregivers. I personally am a foster parent. I like linking arms with parents and caregivers. It takes a village to raise a child, and sometimes it’s helpful to have someone from the outside walk in and help out. I travel a lot for my speaking engagements, but it’s important for me to serve my own community as well.”
MacDonald said she loves the opportunity to partner with parents, caregivers, and kids in the community.
“I think parents need to know they’re not alone, and I think kids need other people in their lives. The school does a great job, and we like kind of being an auxiliary of the school. The school has done a great job promoting the program for us, we’re partnered with them, and they’re all for us doing this program.”
MacDonald said she’s looking forward to working with kids she’s worked with before, and new participants, as well as the volunteers.
“We have a number of older people who are volunteering. This just brings them a lot of joy and helps them find purpose. All kids need a grandma or grandpa to sit with them and read and help them learn. It’s a great relationship, and I’m looking forward to that.”
MacDonald said the feedback she’s gotten for the program has been overwhelmingly positive. Also, all types of donations are appreciated.
“We’re always looking for volunteers. If someone wants to volunteer an hour of their time, they can just let me know, whether you’re religious or not. We’re here to help kids learn. We can always use snacks, like fresh fruit, string cheese, or healthy proteins. They can bring them to the church or just let me know and I’ll come get them. Also, since we offset the costs, if anyone wants to make a financial donation, we’re happy to put that right back into the program for the kids. Also, as I said before, a lot of parents are struggling financially. We want your kids to be here regardless of where you’re at financially, so if that’s an issue, we can make it work,” MacDonald said.
To learn more, donate, or volunteer, message MacDonald through the Facebook page listed above, or give her a call at 402-659-9850. Launchpad is sponsored by Persistent Hope.

The Red Oak Express

2012 Commerce Drive
P.O. Box 377
Red Oak, IA 51566
Phone: 712-623-2566 Fax: 712-623-2568

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