WASHINGTON – The phone rings,interrupting an interview. On the other end of the line is a single mother of six,calling the Children of Mine Youth Center seeking food and shelter for her family.
Hannah Hawkins writes down the mother’s contact information and names of the children. She calls several housing agencies in D.C. and secures temporary housing,food and coats for the mother and children.
“This is a calling for me. Man didn’t call me,God did,and that’s a major difference,” Hawkins said. “When God calls you,he prepares a place and he never leaves you alone.”
Hawkins is the founder and director of the Children of Mine Youth Center in Southeast Washington,about 2½ miles from the Capitol dome,but a world away across the Anacostia River.
From 2:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. four days a week,Hawkins provides a host of free services for children in need. Once a month,she provides meals,clothing and haircuts free to homeless men.
In 2011,Feeding America reported that more than 16 million children lived in food insecure households,those without enough food. A fifth or more of children in 36 states and D.C. lived in food insecure households in 2010. The District of Columbia had the highest rate of children in households without consistent access to food.
The center is a safe haven for more than 100 children who walk over after school. Hawkins and a handful of volunteers provide hot meals donated from Capital Area Food Bank. There is also tutoring,help with homework,Bible study and religion,sewing and crochet,African dance and mentoring.
At the end of the day Hawkins and the volunteers conclude with a rap session. It’s not music,but one-one-one or group discussions. The topics are endless,ranging from family issues,politics,school,the constant struggle and life in the streets.
On request,the center provides community outreach to the homeless and senior citizens. The center has made financial provisions for families in crisis who need assistance with gas and electric bills.
Ibrahim Harris,29,manager of records at a D.C. law firm,is a product of the center he began attending at the age of 6. He now mentors kids and cuts hair for the homeless men that Hawkins serves once a month. Hawkins helped send Harris and his brother to a private high school.
“For me,it’s the least I could do. I really wish I could come more,” Harris said. “This was our home away from home. I know the benefits that I got coming through the program,and I just want to offer other youth the same opportunity.”
The nonprofit is dedicated to enhancing the lives of the children through love,security,education and effective communication.
Hawkins receives small,private donations and assistance from the United Way. The rest of the money comes from Hawkins’ own pocket.
A retired school administrative aide,Hawkins has been providing for neighborhood children for more than 30 years. In 1970,she became a widow after her husband was murdered. She was left with five children to raise and no support. Despite her devastation,Hawkins made a pledge to God that if He would grant her the potential to fight on,she would then serve “the least,lost,lonely and the hungry.” Hawkins soon began providing hot meals for children in the community out of her own home.
Hawkins says her dream is to renovate one of the adjacent houses and provide temporary housing for families in crisis. She wishes for a farm with tutors,not just a safe haven away from home,but a place to learn academically and nutritionally.
“Every day God gives me and many of us a gift that we cannot give ourselves,and that gift is a donated gift and it’s called the gift of life,” Hawkins said. “Those who God does the most for he expects the most from.”
Reach SHFWire reporter Kamrel Eppinger at[email protected]or 202-326-9866. SHFWirestories are free to any news organization that gives the reporter a byline and credits the SHFWire.