By Molly Snyder Senior Writer Published Jun 09, 2004 at 5:19 AM

{image1}There simply isn't a cake large enough to feed the number of families who have benefited from the COA Youth & Family Center, 909 E. North Ave.

Founded in 1906 as a place where immigrant children could enjoy outdoor experiences, COA today offers childcare, youth development, camping trips, preschool programs and The Samson Family Center.

On Saturday, June 19, the Family Center will celebrate 10 years of service with a potluck picnic from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the COA Playground. COA will provide burgers, veggie burgers and hotdogs; attendees should bring a dish to pass. Games, face painting and events for kids will complete the fun.

"The mission of the Samson Family Center is to support families at getting better at what they do," says Family Services Director Terry Tunks. "It's a place to share resources and skills, particularly around the challenges of parenting. Strengthening families is key to creating a community of value."

The Family Center offers parent support groups, parenting classes to increase confidence and learn new strategies, educational and fun workshops, seasonal activities including camping trips, and a three-day-a-week, drop-in group that includes free play, snacks, art projects and sing-a-long.

It is available to Milwaukee parents with children between the ages of newborn to six years old.

"I love going to COA because we can find a very diverse group of people there. I think it's important for Maya to consistently be around children and adults of different backgrounds so that she won't grow up considering one group 'normal,'" says Melissa Temple, whose daughter Maya is one year old.

"When I went on (family) leave I thought 'where are all the cool moms and dads?' and I remembered COA," says Cyndi Wilder, who worked in the Family Center eight years ago when her daughter Mikayla was an infant and recently returned as a participant with her new baby, Anna.

Tunks says the mission of COA is achieved by creating a respectful, strengthening-based environment. "Another way of looking at it is that the Family Center does a lot of cheerleading for families," she says.

Call (414) 263-8383 x128 to register for the picnic or for more information about the COA Family Center.

Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.

Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.