Van Buren’s after-school program aims to raise the kids

A resource manager at Van Buren School saw the need for students to be part of something important, to make new friends and to feel important themselves.

This led George Edelen to start an after-school program called Everyone Needs a Friend at Butterfield Trail Middle School, to engage students with their community and fellow students.

“I got tired of seeing that we were losing young lives in the community way too soon, and I felt like I had to do something with my position to do more than what was already done,” Edelen said. .

Edelen said the two leading causes of death among young people are suicide and drug overdose and believes they are preventable and wants to be there more for children to minimize that risk.

The group meets every Wednesday after school for 90 minutes. Edelen sets up activities that help develop communication, leadership and team spirit skills. As children learn, they also plan ways to give back to their community.

Recently, the group went shopping at Walmart and bought groceries to fill blessing boxes all over town. The second gathering for children took place on November 10 and 15 students showed up.

“When I came up with the idea, I first had to go to my supervisor, Sergeant Wear and Chief Constable Jamie Hammond, and they told me to run with it,” Edelen said. “I then went to my school principal, Kolby Snellenberger, and asked for his permission and he was thrilled to see this happen.”

Edelen thinks the hardest part of the program will be funding, but he is confident the community will help with whatever they need.

“Several friends in the community have already expressed interest and volunteered when the time comes for more help,” he said.

At the next meeting, the children will clean up around the school and participate in a scavenger hunt. Edelen said the children wanted to help out at the local senior center, lay wreaths at the national cemetery and feed the homeless.

Ty Thompson is the Crawford County reporter at the Press Argus-Courier. He can be contacted at