KENNETT SQUARE >> When John Wood had a vision that ultimately helped to form Kennett’s After The Bell Program, he knew the focus had to be on volunteerism and community spirit.
Bell, the final surviving original founder of the organization, died Oct. 9 at the age of 97.
He died after more than 16 years after he joined with his wife, Denise, and Marshall Newton, all members of the Episcopal Church of the Advent, to establish Kennett After-School Association in response to a church study that identified concerns about the welfare of middle school children in the Kennett area who didn’t have access to safe after-school options.
“John was a gentle visionary who cared deeply about this community and its children,” said Dr. Rudy Karkosak, president of the KASA Board of Directors. “Together, John, Denise and Marshall recognized a problem and found a solution that was both unique and sustainable. After-the-Bell has touched the lives of so many children over the years, often helping them to find the path that has led to success in education and in life. In his final years, John continued to be a wonderful friend to After-the-Bell. His presence will be sorely missed, however his legacy will live on in the spirit of each child who passes through our doors.”
Last year, Wood attended a ceremony celebrating the 15th anniversary of After-The-Bell. At this event, KASA announced the creation of the Founders Fund, a donation program created in honor of John Wood and Denise Wood and Marshall Newton in order to perpetuate their vision and ensure the long-term sustainability and growth of the program.
After-The-Bell has gained strength in the past few years. The program has 69 community collaborations, including new partnerships with Kennett Square Golf and Country Club, Longwood Performing Arts, the American Contract Bridge League, Chester County Department of Emergency Services, Kids First Swim School and the Land Conservancy of Southern Chester County.
After The Bell has especially helped Latino children learn the English language. Many volunteer mentors are bilingual. And the students involved in the program are on the fast track to success.