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Open Arms offers several services to community

Friday, November 16, 2012

Open Arms Christian Ministries in Switz City plays several roles in the community, and is hoping for more community support.

Executive Director Martin Corey said the campus, located across from the Greene County 4-H Fairgrounds, includes a group home for girls ages 8 to 21-years-old, foster care program, foster care licensing, and rent-free space for Shining Stars Preschool and Turning Point Education Center.

Corey noted the school also offers programs such as Department of Child Services training and will soon be offering computer skills classes to the students.

Tiffany Leonard, from Hamilton Center in Linton, also provides counseling services to students, foster children and families.

"My vision is to see at least part of Open Arms, if not all of it, become a part of the community," Corey explained.

Corey said the focus of Open Arms Christian Ministry is to provide people of a wide range of ages a second chance, especially with their education.

Turning Point Education Center (TPEC) offers GED and credit recovery programs for anyone 16-years-old or above.

According to statistics provided by the National Center for Education, it costs the economy approximately $240,000 over the course of a dropout's lifetime.

"We have had 60 or so kids get a diploma or GED in the last year. This is huge to me," Corey explained. "I call them kids, but some of the students are in their 30s or 40s."

Throughout the 2011-12 school year, TPEC had 226 students. During the school year 46 GED certifications were obtained, 125 credits were recovered and 14 students graduated with a high school diploma.

"The students are the ones doing the work. We are just equipping them," Corey stressed.

Corey said many of the students who come to TPEC do not have a goal for the future, but Open Arms provides services to point them in the right direction.

"Now we've got this program from WorkIN, which makes the students more marketable and they can earn higher pay sometimes," Corey added.

Corey said he does not believe the community is aware of the impact Open Arms makes.

"I was down at White River Valley talking to (Superintendent) Layton Wall, and I told him I want to see everybody in this county educated and successful," Corey added.

Corey noted he does not "call all of the shots," but meets with staff and members of the community to reach a common goal for the future of the program.

According to Corey, approximately 75 percent of the funding for Open Arms is through the Indiana Department of Workforce Development.

TPEC Director Nancy Damron explained when students start the free GED classes they are required to take a Test of Adult Basic Education (TABE) to assess their skills. Throughout the classes the students are tested every 60 hours, and funding is based on each time the students increase their scores to move across the six levels.

She added the school also gets funding for each GED or diploma earned through credit recovery courses.

The rest of the organization's funding comes from corporate and individual sponsors from the community.

"We would like to see that about 50-50," Corey said.

He added additional corporate or individual sponsorships would allow the organization to expand their services and help more people.

"This area is so economically depressed," Corey noted.

Corey said they would like to purchase more books for TPEC in order to offer more classes and help more people become educated. He noted while the GED classes are free the test is $70.

"Many of the students don't have $70 to pay for the GED test. We would like to get sponsors, where maybe they can pay half of it," Core explained.

He added Open Arms also endures transportation costs to get students from all five county schools to TPEC, including fuel and wear and tear on the vehicles.

"We would like to add a night class and have enough money to cover another teacher's salary," Corey said, noting TPEC employs two full-time and one part-time teacher, as well as one assistant.

Corey added there are other opportunities to help the ministry continue its success through volunteering. Opportunities range from helping in the foster home to yard work around the campus.

In the last few years TPEC has also started serving lunch to students during the day.

"I had noticed several students weren't leaving during lunch time to eat," Corey said, noting an inquiry showed many of those students did not have food available for lunch. "We started providing hot meals. For some, this will be their only hot meal for the day."

For more information about Open Arms Christian Ministry call 659-2533 or visit www.openarmschristian.com .

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