Original Story from CBS Channel 12 News
Written by Samantha Kerrigan
JUPITER, Fla. (CBS12) — This week’s “Hometown Hero” is a woman who’s dedicated most of her life to helping kids and families who need it most.
Edna Runner’s passion for education inspired her to create an afterschool program for kids in her hometown of Jupiter nearly 35 years ago and she hasn’t looked back since.
“I never thought, never imagined, it would grow like this,” Runner said.
From the basement of a local church to a building bearing her name, Edna Runner helped create a safe space for kids in need.
“There was a group of concerned citizens that realized we needed an afterschool program for our kids that needed help with their homework here in the west Jupiter area,” Runner said.
It started in 1986 as the “West Jupiter Community Group” with 45 kids.
Since then, this labor of love has impacted thousands of students.
“I always tell people when you serve the kids your community, you’re going to have a really great community,” Edna said. “Even before the ‘Edna Runner Tutorial Center’ kids would come to my house and play in the yard and we would do different fun activities,” she went on.
The new building opened in 1993 and was later rededicated as the ‘Edna W. Runner Tutorial Center’ in honor of its fearless leader.
Today, the center provides afterschool, spring break, and summer camp programs for elementary and middle school kids.
Their mission is to help them reach their full potential academically and personally.
And for Ms. Runner, some of her favorite moments are the reunions with former students.
“The kids when they leave the center they go off to college, they graduate, and they come back, and they say Ms. Runner I’ve never forgotten the things you did for us and this community.”
Travis Conway is the program director for the center and he knows firsthand the impact it can have on a child’s life.
“My mom had a brain aneurysm in 2002 and that night Ms. Runner picked my brother and I up and from there we were off to the races – that was our first summer camp here,” Conway said.
And it was that feeling of family and support that eventually brought him back.
“There’s no other person that I’ve met like Ms. Runner,” Conway said. “She gives lots of guidance and lots of great advice to people and this community wouldn’t look like it does today without her,” he went on.
Conway says to know Ms. Runner is to love her. And the feeling is mutual.
“The rewarding part is the smiles the kids have on their faces when they come back to visit and they always come back,” Runner said.
While she’s not ready to hang up her hat just yet, she says it’s possible she will retire soon.
She’ll still be around though, volunteering and taking part in the senior citizen program the center also offers.
If you’d like to learn more, just visit the ‘Edna W. Runner Tutorial Center’ website.