The Kings Center has been a hub of activity for children in Frankfort since 1996. Starting at age 6, children can come to the center, located at the corner of Logan and Third streets, to get homework help, learn lifeskills and, best of all, hang out with their friends in a nurturing environment.
It all began as a vision of the late Randy Bacon. “More than 20 years ago, he bought this building at auction,” Randy’s wife, Pat Bacon, explained. “He was thinking it would be a good place for some sort of small business. But as he got involved in renovating it, what he saw was that this neighborhood had so many beautiful children with not many things to do.”
It takes a village
That was the beginning of the faith-based nonprofit community center that has helped shape the lives of so many Frankfort children. “It was put on his heart that this should be some kind of youth center for children,” Pat said.
“The first place Randy took the idea was to his church, First United Methodist. They liked the idea as an outreach mission. Soon after, South Frankfort Presbyterian Church and St. John AME also became involved. All volunteers,” Pat remembered.
Since then, many churches and community organizations have become involved. “This could never have happened without all of the community support and very dedicated work from the board members,” Pat said. “We have board members that have been with us from the first. And, it’s a board that reaches across boundaries. It’s just a wonderful group that works together very well.”
Named for three Kings
On a wall in the front room of The Kings Center, three portraits are prominently displayed. They are the “Kings” for which this children’s haven is named.
“The Kings Center is named for Martin Luther King Jr. because of his message of equality and peace; Peggy King, a community and environmental advocate, and great friend to Randy Bacon; and Christ the King because we are faith-based,” board chairperson Sheila Mason explains.
A place of learning and love
“We have an internal saying that we like to use,” Mason commented. “SIS. It stands for ‘Sowing Indelible Seeds.’ Our hope is that those seeds hit and germinate with the children.”
The King Center website states that its mission is to serve the physical, emotional, academic and spiritual needs of Frankfort/Franklin County children and families by being a caring presence in the community. Each program and activity offered by the center focuses on being influential to the children in three major areas — education, mentoring and development.
“The Kings Center places an emphasis on providing children and teenagers with academic, cultural and social experiences that they might not otherwise have and we firmly believe that anything is possible for them now and in the future,” Mason commented.
Each day, the youth who come to The Kings Center experience the structure of small groups based on age, according to director Deneen Petty. They sit down for a snack, do homework, have free time and work on a craft or listen to a program presented byPetty, one of the children or a community partner.
“This is also a place of learning,” Petty remarked. “We work on all things about people — not just our bodies and our minds, but our hearts and souls, as well. We learn about values and morals and standards …
“I always try to promote the concept of kindness,” she said, smiling. “If you are kind to others, you’ll think about how it feels to be kind and the effect it has on people. The children are starting to listen to themselves and to others and change the way they interact. They are beginning to respect one another.”
Petty, who came to The Kings Center in January 2019, said she’s been training for this position her whole career with extensive experience in childhood development, family relations and working with at-risk youth. “It was just a really good fit and definitely the best time of my life! When I see how much the community gives to this place, it inspires me to give as much as I can,” Petty said.
Volunteers are the heart
The Kings Center makes a difference to the children’s lives due to dedicated volunteers and organizations that selflessly give their time, energy and money to make The Kings Center a success. “Without the work of so many people and diverse groups in Frankfort, we would not be providing the level of services to these kids,” Mason remarked.
One of those volunteers is known as “The Maintenance Lady.” Longtime board member Margaret Townsley is said to have a special talent for stretching funds. “Margaret has found money through grants to take of our building so that we don’t have to use programming money,” Mason explained.
Retired teacher Kay Scott is also a board member and “head secret angel” for a special program at The Kings Center called City of Angels. The way it works is that an anonymous sponsor, known as a “secret angel,” provides emotional support through monthly cards, gifts on special occasions and daily prayers for one of the children who attend the Center. “The last three or four years I was teaching, I became involved as a sponsor. That’s where my heart started to be entwined with The Kings Center,” Scott commented. “So, when I retired it was just automatic that this is where I would give my time.”
The children, according to Scott, get really excited when they find out they have an angel. “One little boy … pinned all of his cards up in his bedroom closet and then anytime he felt sad, he would go in his closet and be surrounded by his cards,” she remarked.
Special activities, special children
The Kings Center staff and board have worked tirelessly to provide interesting opportunities for the youth. They have worked with community partners such as musician and film producer Joanna Hay, Ed Councill and Canoe Kentucky for “Survival Camp,” Josephine Sculpture Park Shakespeare in the Park, The Grand Theatre and Broadway Clay.
“That’s what we mean when we say we want to be more than just a place to provide homework help and an after school program,” Scott said. “We want to be a program that gives these kids the experiences that they’ve never had.”
Mentors from the Wanda Joyce Robinson Foundation (WJR Foundation) come every other week. WJR Foundation was started, according to it’s website, to advocate and improve outcomes for Central Kentucky children and youth impacted by incarceration by helping them succeed in school and society and providing resources, mentoring and productive experiences. “Dale Robinson and other volunteers work with all of the kids and provide a program about self concept. Then about once a month, they take a field trip to somewhere like Juniper Hill Park or the Cincinnati Aquarium,” Mason said.
Another ongoing program at The Kings Center is HeartBEATS. Through grants and local community partners, singer/songwriter Jeri Katherine Howell has brought the innovative, hip-hop and beat-making youth development program to the older children.
“The goal of The Kings Center has always been to provide a safe environment for children to explore opportunities available in the Frankfort area, and to have a feeling of belonging and love … once a Kings Center kid, always a Kings Center kid,” Mason said.
For more information on The Kings Center, visit www.kingscenter.org.