What Do We Know? Not Much.
I don’t listen to the radio much, especially on the weekends. But whenever we travel on Saturday mornings, my wife and I like to listen to two shows, Car Talk and Whad’ya Know? Both of them mix humor with random (and occasionally helpful) pieces of information.
In the latter show, the announcer asks, “What do you know?” and the audience responds in unison, “Not much.”
And if you were to ask me (three years ago or today) what we know about running after school programs or day camps, I would simply and truthfully say, “Not much.”
Not an Expert
We just finished our third annual Elevate Spring Break Camp (check out some great pictures). This year we averaged 55 children, 10 teenagers, and over a dozen adults each day. Campers (local and from Greenville) enjoyed playing fun sports, creating beautiful art, eating healthy food, petting gentle animals (a goat, a chicken, and three dogs), and building loving friendships. By all means I would call this event a success.
By observing programs like this that we’ve done over the past 3 years, you might assume that we were camp experts, and you’d be partially right. My wife’s career goal when she was in college was to work at a camp for kids. (But in God’s providential timing, He delayed granting this desire for 15 years.)
But me? I know nothing not much about running camps and programs for kids. At the least, I didn’t know much three years ago, when we moved here. Remember, I was a chemist for almost 10 years. And even for the four years of being a children’s pastor, I didn’t do much in the way of program creation or organizing fun activities. I spent most of my time planning for the long-term and developing leaders.
So how did this Spring Break camp come to be? With just a simple thought. (Just like our whole adventure in Allendale begin with a surprisingly simple question.)
An Idea + A Question
Towards the end of 2011, I decided to leave my job at the Boys and Girls Club. Yes, I was leaving that job, but that job was not the reason we moved to Allendale. We came to Allendale to be a part of the community and to work with kids. That job provided a great opportunity to do that, but it was a means, not the end.
Before the end of the year, my wife and I discussed what we wanted to do in 2012. What did children and families need, that wasn’t being provided? Several ideas came to us, the biggest of which was a day camp during the school’s spring break.
During spring break, children were out of school, but many parents were still working and needed something productive and positive for their children. Plus, we could provide healthy meals, sorely needed in an area where over 90% of children are on free and reduced lunch.
So we asked this question, “If we could do a day camp over spring break, what would we need?” We had a short list:
- A facility
- Resources, such as food and supplies
Or, if you like alliteration, we can call these:
God (and You) Provided
We started talking to friends and leaders in Allendale (especially in the school district), and to friends and leaders in Greenville (from Grace Church). And we asked for help with those three things, and we were blessed with very willing assistance.
- We needed a building, and Allendale County Schools let us use the middle school, including the football field.
- We needed volunteers, and we got plenty from Allendale and Greenville.
- We needed equipment, some of which we bought, and some of which Grace Church helped purchase from Upward Sports.
- We needed food, and local companies and individuals collectively donated over $1000 to provide daily breakfasts, lunches, and snacks for all our participants (and the school food services staff volunteered their time to prepare the food).
So if you asked me what it takes to have a camp, I’ll say, “Not much. Just some loving people.”
The Next Step
Since we are leaving Allendale this summer, we obviously won’t be leading this camp next year. But that doesn’t mean it has to stop. Already this year, one parent played more of a leadership role, and other parents have told me that they could take off time from work next year to make this happen.
And we can still be a part. At least, we would love to be. Our role would be different, and that’s fine.
Most of my work came in the months leading up to camp – soliciting donations, recruiting and vision-casting for volunteers, signing up kids, etc. But when it comes to the actual week of camp, I do very little. I greet, direct, give daily devotions, and handle a few discipline issues. My wife and other volunteers organize and execute the fun parts. So much of that could be handled by others.
So, now that we are on the back-end of doing programs like this for three years, what do we know? Not much.
We just know that we have been blessed by a gracious God and a loving community.