BALTIMORE (WJZ) — A $50,000 surprise for children in West Baltimore. The Kids Safe Zone at the Penn-North Community Resource Center gets the money it needs to expand into a larger space.

Marcus Washington explains who helped make it all possible.

This was truly a community effort — everything from the lieutenant governor’s office to private companies all wanting to ensure the kids in West Baltimore have a safe place to learn and have fun.

It’s the beginning of something big for more than 100 kids who attend the Kids Safe Zone in West Baltimore — a safe place for kids created in the wake of the unrest in Baltimore following the death of Freddie Gray.

The community cried, and the Penn-North Resource Center listened.

“That there were no after school programs and they were playing in between these teddy bear shrines and yellow tape and people were dying here. I just went to my executive director and I said, ‘Why can’t we be the place?'” said Ericka Alston, Penn North Community Resource Center.

Now with the help of more than $80,000 donated from the lieutenant governor’s office and many more, the Kids Safe Zone is expanding from its 1,000 square foot space to 5,000 square feet next door.

“I’m proud of the leadership of Ms. Alston and what she has done. I’m proud to see the community coming together to do something for the kids,” said Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford, (R) Maryland. “After school is a very importent time for these kids, that having a safe place where they can go and still be stimulated is just tremendous.”

“We’re probably going to have a lot of fun, and it’s going to be fun and we can run around and play games,” said Dae’Quan Powell, student.

In the summer months, more than 100 kids attend the center daily. Right now, each day, 65 kids spend a lot of time here.

“I had fun the first time I came and then I brought my friend and we just started coming all the time,” said Kela Brahand, student.

It’s the beauty that came from an ugly time for the city.

“This place wouldn’t exist if we didn’t hear the community during the uprising,” said Alston.

Contributions for the Kids Safe Zone expansion also came from singer Alicia Keys, the A&E television outreach networks, Kaiser Permanente and the Maryland Department of Human Resources.

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