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At a small United Methodist church in rural Washington state, Sunday-morning church attendance is usually about 25 people. But Monday through Friday, attendance more than doubles. Kim Riemland reports on a program that brings kids to church by the busload, and is considered a blessing for needy families.

 
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It’s not unusual for a church to be quiet on a weekday afternoon. But this silence is savored – it’s the proverbial calm before the storm.

At this United Methodist church, the storm rolls in on school buses.

Church member Glennda Hargrave runs this after-school program with the discipline of a drill sergeant. She’s part of a ministry that’s meeting a critical need in this Native American community.

Glennda Hargrove, Wilbur Memorial United Methodist Church: “There’s not a daycare in White Swan. So where do the kids go? They go home to an empty house. When you’re in kindergarten, do you want to go to an empty home? Absolutely not.”

Instead, they come to a full house – up to 60 elementary students spend their after-school time here at the church, and no one is charged a penny. Parents say it’s a godsend.

Delbert Wheeler, parent: “I work from 2 in the morning until usually 5:30 at night. My wife usually gets off about quarter after 5, so in that gap between 3 and 5, it really helps us a lot. “

Cheyenne Thomas, fifth-grader: “We do fun stuff here. We learn, do homework.“

There’s a heavy emphasis on academic achievement, and homework help they might not get at home.

Half of the kids here live with someone other than a parent – the tutoring, nutritious snacks and free child care help ease the strain on struggling families.

Nat sound: “Love you. See you tomorrow, OK?”

It’s an ambitious and thriving ministry for one small church – opening its doors and its arms to embrace a community need.

I’m Kim Riemland reporting.

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The ministry is sustained by a patchwork of funding sources. Nutritious snacks come through a federal food program. Workers’ pay is covered by the Yakama Indian tribe, and the rest, from grants and donations.