Convenience store,Monessen, Pennsylvania

Monessen convenience store 'kares' for kids in local community

January 8, 2017
in Kids

Kelly Tunney | Herald-Standard Dennis Hawkins’ life story is on display everywhere you look at the Kare 4 My Kids convenience store he runs on Reed Avenue. Thousands upon thousands of photos, posters and newspaper clippings cover every wall of the Monessen store. They even cover the door that leads into the food preparation area and parts of the ceiling. They chronicle events held over the past 11 years by Hawkins’ nonprofit, Kare 4 My Kids Fly, and feature his priorities for all to see. Snapshots of his three children are almost anywhere you look. Near the fire extinguisher is a picture of a Monessen resident who died of a drug overdose in November, leaving behind a daughter without parents that Hawkins helped make Christmas plans for. Above several loafs of bread for sale is a Stand Up 2 Cancer poster that reads “#JayJayStrong,” in support of Jayden Bassett, who died at age 4 in May from cancer. Charisse Bassett, Jayden’s mother, came into the store on a cold December afternoon with her son Marco and said she and her family appreciated Hawkins, who raised $3,000 through GoFundMe and the store to help pay for Jayden’s funeral. Not all of the Hawkins’ priorities are posted to the store’s walls. Wrapped presents for his nonprofit’s third annual toy drive sat on a chair in the corner of the eating area, and a piece of paper with a list of eight local students and how many As they got in school in November in a contest to win a gift card were tucked away behind the counter. “What can I do to help kids?” Hawkins, 32, said he asked himself after taking stock of his life story: born and raised in Donora, growing up with parents addicted to drugs and friends having children at a young age. “I was a godfather while still in high school,” Hawkins said. So now Hawkins’ nonprofit tries to keep kids in Monessen and throughout the Mon Valley from taking the same path toward drugs that he went down and unite the community, while his convenience store sells foods and toiletries to residents of northwestern Monessen who don’t have the means to obtain them elsewhere. “We don’t have anything,” said Bassett, 30, who lives in Highland Manor. “We don’t have corner stores. Everything is shut down.” A STORE FOR THE HILL Community events through the Kare 4 My Kids nonprofit have ranged over the years from annual Easter egg hunts at Monessen City Park to skating parties and...

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