The Salvation Army continues to grow the services it offers to the community by including free after-school programs for junior high and high school children. In addition to local students, the programs are available to home-schooled students as well.

Hours are normally Monday through Friday from 2:30 to 5:30 p.m.; however, the Salvation Army fluctuates its hours to accommodate the district's calendar to include minimum days.

The Salvation Army features different activities depending on the day of the week, said Lucia Guzman, youth coordinator. For example, the children can look forward to playing board games on Tuesdays.

"On Wednesdays, people from Mountain Vineyard Church will come to hang out with the kids, play games with them and basically see if anyone has something they want to share or talk about," said Guzman.

On Thursdays, staff from College Community Services will also stop by and offer its services.

Said Guzman, "They will teach them about emotions, feelings and relationships and what healthy boundaries look like in our lives."

The Salvation Army also started a new robotics team over the summer.

"The high school robotics team has volunteered to come and work with us so we can create our own robotics team," said Johanna Valencia, Salvation Army Youth Center coordinator.

As soon as the children arrive, they receive help with homework as needed and have access to a computer lab.

When school work is done, the children are free to play with the foosball and ping-pong tables or just hang out and socialize.

In addition to spiritual and emotional nourishment, the children are also offered snacks or are fed light meals each day.

A portion of the funding for the after-school program has come from Walmart, with Sierra Bank providing funding for the summer programs. In addition, local churches have assisted by providing school supplies.

On average, more than three dozen children attend the program on any given day.

"We always welcome more children," Valencia said. "We want to fit the need, so if there are more kids that are interested in coming in, we definitely are welcoming them."

In addition to offering children something to do after school, Guzman said the Salvation Army is a place for them to build relationships and just be themselves.

"When they have someone that can give them that full attention, there is a need that is being met that a lot of times a single parent can't do or a working parent can't do, day in and day out," said Guzman.

The Salvation Army is located at 538 E. Tehachapi Blvd. For more information on its many services offered, call 823-9508. Location hours can also be found at salvationarmyusa.org.