Originally named “Beat the Heat,” Miami Kids Machine was launched two summers ago as a program to keep Miami youth out of trouble. Now, as the community starts to open up again, the Machine is getting ready to move into a place of its own.
The former Moose Lodge building is set for conversion into a clubhouse – “A Safe Place for All Our Kids” - with Miami Kids Machine paying a nominal fee for its use.
Program founder/director Christine Duarte said it was founded to provide guidance to local youth, adding that vandalism, graffiti and curfew violations were common. She added that since Beat the Heat started, the crime rate in Miami has decreased. Meeting weekly at different locations, Beat the Heat provided fun activities as well as community service projects – town cleanups, painting bridges and volunteering. The group has also discussed such issues as bullying, suicide and racism.
They hoped to be able to offer a place to hang out after school, with adult supervision and guidance, and to be open after school Monday through Thursday with extended hours on Friday.
Though many of the children served by Beat the Heat/Miami Kids Machine come from troubled situations, some being raised by grandparents, Duarte said the program has attracted youth from all walks of life; some of their families are even able to help out with activities.
With the obstacles posed this year by Covid-19, as well as a new town manager and a new job for Duarte (she is the town’s community services and development director), “it’s like we’re starting over again.”
The program was approached by Miami Genesis, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that specializes in economic development including grant writing. “Without them, we wouldn’t have Miami Kids Machine,” said Duarte. The program has also received grants from Resolution Copper, and key donors have included the Miami High School Alumni Association, IBEW and Source One Meds.
“We’re looking forward to this year’s holidays because we’ll be able to host parties,” said Duarte. Miami Kids Machine also hopes to include a computer lab in their new home, as a resource for children who need homework help as well as fun activities. In addition, the building will provide office space for the program’s directors. Duarte hopes to have the clubhouse open and operating by next school year.
Before that can happen, the building – closed for several years – will need a lot of work, and Miami Genesis is currently pursuing grants to fund repairs and arranging for contractors. “We’re excited to have the building, but it’s in pretty rough shape,” said Duarte. “The next couple of months will be hectic for us.”
Miami Kids Machine is looking for donors, whether they donate money, clubhouse furnishings or a helping hand to assist with building cleanup.
Desired items include furniture, appliances, decorations, a pool table and a ping pong table. If interested in donating or volunteering, call Christine Duarte at 928-458-6373.