Shara Klenk, a resident of Arenac County and mother of two, searched for a local center for children to gather for fun and recreation after school. She found there wasn’t such a center, and waiting lists for quality daycare were long.
Shara wasn’t well-known in the community. She wasn’t wealthy, and she didn’t have a college degree. But she did have courage, passion, and vision. She took a bold step forward when she decided that she would bring about the change she wanted to see.
At her own expense, Shara applied for the 501(c)(3) nonprofit status for the newly formed Arenac Community Center. With the support of partners at the Standish-Sterling School district, Arenac Opportunities, the WELL, and the Standish Veterans of Foreign Wars, Arenac Community Center signed a ten-year lease to use a vacant elementary school.
Shara said it’s been very rewarding to see the community come together to back this idea. Last year, the Center hosted the local school’s summer recreation program and later opened an after-school program in October. Next up, the nonprofit is focused on starting a daycare program.
Children now have access to a computer lab, arts and crafts room, game room, reading station, gymnasium, outdoor recreation facilities, and programming to keep them learning and having fun. Parents now have a peace of mind that their children are cared for when they can’t be there.
Due to COVID-19 and because the Center is located within a school, as long as schools are closed, the Center is closed. However, they are looking to the future. Arenac Community Center recently received a grant from Bay Area Community Foundatin’s Healthy Living Fund to provide a new play structure that will be open for public use. For now, the organization continues with this project and looks forward to the day the Center can start their programming again.
“It’s all for the kids,” says Shara. “They needed someone to stand up for them. When they kids come running excitedly through the door, that’s when I know it’s all worth it.”
But Shara’s work is not done. She is one test away from receiving an associate’s degree in early childhood development, and she hopes to focus next in psychology and mental health training for children. She’s dedicated to helping these children in the ways she can.
She wants to encourage others to step out of their comfort zone and be bold. “In order to make a difference in the world, you have to be different,” she says. “You can’t make a difference if you simply blend in; be yourself.”
2020 is the year to be bold. To offer inspiration on acts of boldness, we are sharing stories all year of those in the Bay Area who have taken action . . . of those who have dared to make a difference . . . and of those who took a risk. Know someone like this? Use our quick form to let us know so we can share their story.