COVID-19 has created new demands for Riverside Educational Center, as transport to and from tutoring and other activities has become increasingly more difficult.

The center is a nonprofit agency providing after-school tutoring and enrichment activities to qualifying students in Mesa County. It operates at 10 District 51 elementary, middle and high schools, including a new program at Central High School. The center also supports students at Colorado Mesa University.

“We are at a critical time,” said Executive Director Joy Hudak in the press release. “Transportation is always a big issue for working families and we know that REC’s ability to transport kids takes pressure off of parents. Without additional buses, we won’t be able to serve all of our students. Acquiring buses is our highest priority.”

The center had a fleet of eight used 14-passenger buses, but one bus was retired for safety reasons and the remaining seven had to be retrofitted to meet COVID-19 social distancing and safety requirements. Only seven kids can ride on each bus, cutting capacity in half.

Further complicating transportation, a trailer carrying 18 mountain bikes and as many helmets was reportedly stolen from outside Riverside Educational Center’s storage facility last weekend. The bikes did not belong to any one individual, rather were used by area middle schoolers who were in need of one.

“Some of the kids got back on Friday night with a trailer full of mountain bikes donated to us,” the center’s program coordinator Jack Curry said. “When I went out on Monday, the trailer was nowhere to be found.”

It’s a particularly devastating loss still with two months until winter.

“This is prime time for us. This trailer goes to three different schools throughout the week; we use them for field trips, excursions … One example is last Friday we were out at the Lunch Loop with the kids,” he said.

The Riverside Educational Center provides structured tutoring and diverse extracurricular activities after school for qualified kindergarten-12th grade students, according to the website.

The program aims to improve academic achievement and foster social emotional development in a safe and supportive environment.

Curry said the 18 bikes stolen were mostly the size for middle schoolers and had been in use for about two years.

The bikes were donated by community members and recreation supporters.

With other new demands, including delivering weekly food boxes to families in need and loaning students portable WiFi hotspots so they can do schoolwork from home, the nonprofit is seeking community support.

This month, the center kicked off its annual fundraiser, Taste of Riverside, with a goal of $125,000. The auction closes for bidding Oct. 24 at www.rec4kids.com.

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