By Lucy Papachristou | Outer Banks Voice on January 25, 2020
On Saturday, Jan. 4, dozens of Outer Banks residents woke up to an uncomfortably early alarm clock ring. In the wee hours of the morning, they made their way to the All Saints Episcopal Church in Kitty Hawk and stood in line for as long as three hours, patiently waiting until the doors opened at 8 a.m.
Those who got in line early were rewarded with the first pick of classes from All Saints’ popular After Dark series. Organized by a seven-person committee of church members, After Dark, now in its tenth year, is a community education program run annually from late January through February. This year, the program starts on Jan. 27 and continues through Feb. 28. A total of 75 classes are offered this year, and as of Jan. 7, 18 of them have already been filled.
The most popular courses tend to be cooking and art classes. The culinary class taught by the owners of the Saltbox, a local restaurant in Colington, was so popular that another slot was added. Both sold out in under an hour.
Organizers Tom O’Brien and his wife Kay started After Dark in 2010, offering 25 classes over two weeks. The program was immediately a success, with some 200 people participating. Since then, After Dark has only grown.
“We had just built a new building in the church, and we were trying to figure out how to use the space to support what the community needs might be,” O’Brien explained. “We tried several different things, but we settled on After Dark to get the congregation and community engaged in the middle of February, which is a raw kind of time down here.”
O’Brien got the idea of an educational series from some friends at Saint Patrick Catholic School in Norfolk, VA, which hosts a similar program. But while Saint Patrick’s program supports a scholarship fund for its students, O’Brien explains that the money raised from After Dark registration fees is distributed to a variety of service organizations in the Outer Banks. The program now supports seven local organizations devoted to either food, shelter or medical needs.
Last year, After Dark netted about $20,000, compared with about $5,000 in its first year. Over the course of its 10 years, the program has donated more $137,000 to worthy causes.
Although the cooking and art classes are undoubtedly enjoyable, O’Brien and another After Dark organizer, Tim McKeithan, are urging people to sign up for medical and lifestyle courses as well.
Notable examples include “How to Stay Out of the Doctor’s Office,” a course taught by an Outer Banks Hospital physician, and “Driving Safely and Staying Independent,” a class that helps older people avoid traffic accidents. Others teach technology skills and ways to avoid online scammers.
Registration remains open right up until courses begin. The cost is $23 per student for one-night classes and $33 for two-night classes. Children under 18 pay only $12. Students can register in person at All Saints Church, or by phone, mail, or e-mail. More information can be found on After Dark’s website or All Saints’ Facebook page.