Hawkins, Kids First receive commendation from Ivey

Published 11:44 am Thursday, June 20, 2024

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By Carey Reeder | Managing Editor

Cindy and Oscar Hawkins, creators of Kid First Awareness Community Learning Center, recently announced their retirement from the program following 25 years of service to at-risk youth and their families. The couple later extended their influence to the Clanton area by establishing an adult workforce development program in the area.

“We feel blessed to have had the opportunity to serve others,” Cindy Hawkins said. “We look forward to the future.”

The Hawkins were welcomed to the Alabama State Capitol Building to meet with Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey to receive a commendation for their selfless service to the communities they served for 25 years. They were joined by friends and supporters at the capitol to celebrate their careers.

“I, Kay Ivey, Governor of Alabama, do hereby commend Kids First on their 25 years of service to youth and family in Alabama,” Ivey’s commendation said. “I wish the Hawkins family, employees of Kids First and all other affiliates and volunteers mighty success in the years to come.”

Oscar and Cindy moved to Alabaster in 1998, and the couple quickly became aware that children in the at-risk communities around the area did not have some type of positive community program to help provide guidance for them. A year later, the Hawkins, alongside friends and others in the communities, organized the first Kids Block Party Fun Service Day. The event had children activities and provided a free lunch, and it emphasized the importance of staying in school, resisting drugs and violence and establishing a positive community by doing a day of service.

“The mission of Kids First is to make a positive difference in the community and encourage others to step out on faith,” the commendation from Ivey said. “Kids First holds true to its mission statement of preparing children and their families for the future by building foundations for life through education, arts, workforce development training and resources in order to make a positive difference in Alabama and beyond.”

The Hawkins quickly expanded their outreach, and on July 20 in 2002, they opened their nonprofit Kids First Awareness Community Learning Center in Alabaster. The nonprofit provided afterschool programs for children and other positive awareness activities for communities. In 2019, Kids First expanded to Chilton County and established Bridge of HOPE, an adult workforce development program that assists those looking for work to get a job. Bridge of HOPE was established in the West End community in Clanton, and the ministry has helped dozens of local residents find jobs and help provide for their families.

Kids First-Bridge of HOPE in Clanton quickly established their Seeds of Kindness Awards Event in 2019 holding its first event at the YMCA of Chilton County. The event included a kids against adults basketball game, live music, free lunch and a community beautification project. Seed of Kindness became an annual event in the Clanton community held on or around Martin Luther King Jr. Day each year in January.

After 25 years of events, service and raising awareness in at-risk communities, the Hawkins announced it was time to step away at the gathering in Montgomery on June 6. Those who joined the Hawkins in the signing of the commendation from Ivey included Cam Ward, Director of the Alabama Bureau of Pardons and Paroles, Alabama Rep. Kenneth Paschal, Alabama Secretary of State Division Director Dr. Shemekwa Farrow, Taniya Duncan with the Alabama Retirement System, Molly Killman with the Alabama Department of Public Health, Coordinator of ServeAlabama Melinda Stallworth, Communications & Engagement Officer with ServeAlabama Loni Green, Tom Risher with Habitat For Humanity of Autauga and Chilton Counties, United States Air Force Veteran James L. Talley, musician Jay Stephen Garrett and realtor Gayla Schofield.