PITTSFIELD, Mass. - The Focus is Our Children is a free after school homework and mentor program started by Manny and Vanessa Slaughter in October 2022. The Pittsfield couple is dedicated to serving people in their community.

What You Need To Know

  • Focus is our Children is running a free after school homework and mentor program in Pittsfield

  • The 501(c)(3) nonprofit is run by Manfred and Vanessa Slaughter

  • The after-school program runs Monday to Friday for children 6 to 16 years old

  • Focus is Our Children runs a dance program once a week and is planning a recreational program for the near future

“Oh, I’ve been doing this for about 27 years," Manny Slaughter said. "I've been blessed to be a blessing to others for a long time. I've been working with children, I've been working with teenagers, I have worked with the elderly and I love every minute. It's not a chore, it's a passion for me to be able to make a difference in other people's lives.”

His latest effort, The Focus is Our Children organization, is an after school homework and mentor program hosted in the basement of Price Memorial A.M.E. Zion Church in Pittsfield.

“We truly believe that every child should have a purpose and have a vision and most of all have the opportunity in life to become a productive member of society," Slaughter said.

Once kids complete their homework, they’re free to play games with volunteers or on devices donated by local organizations.

Slaughter is grateful to the many donors and volunteers involved who he said make the program possible. Donations for the program have come from the Berkshire United Way, the Berkshire County Sheriff's Department, local banks, private donors and other local businesses.

Slaughter said they see 12 to 17 children a day and thanked their volunteers, saying they could always use more help.

“We can’t do it by ourselves,” he said.

Cliff Harewood is an IT manager at the Berkshire Medical Center and worked with the hospital to donate some computers which were going out of commission. Additional computers were donated by Williams College and the Barrington Stage Company has donated tablets.

“They were going in the trash, yeah, and we refurbished them all and got them working for the kids and now they can play games," Harewood said. "They're going to be getting some educational programs on them and we think it's a nice little setup for them.”

Slaughter gives additional credit to his two daughters for the idea to start to the growing nonprofit organization this past fall.

“It's not just after school program," Slaughter said. "It consists of the dance program that my lovely wife runs - her name is Vanessa Slaughter, and that's once a week. Then moving along, we also have another component that we're going to do in the spring and the summer, and that's a recreational program that consists of sports.”

The Focus is Our Children hopes to provide a safe haven for kids outside of school all year long. Slaughter said it just takes a few hours a day to make a big impact.

“It's about making a difference, giving these children the opportunity to be doctors, lawyers, teachers, surgeons, giving them the opportunity that they can be all they can be," Slaughter said. "So, why not start an after school program?”