At 8 am, Monday through Friday, the van is pulling out of the Menchville House Shelter parking lot, transporting 10 youth to summer camp at the Tom & Ann Hunnicutt YMCA. It may be early; however, they are skipping/running to the van with camp bags on their backs and lunch boxes and water bottles in hand. They are ready for a full day of activity, which might consist of arts and crafts, swimming, athletic games, international games, a STEM Fair or camp dress up. Every Friday, it’s off for a field trip to the skating center, a park, putt-putt golf, bowling, Virginia Air and Space Museum or Blue Bird Gap Farm.
The campers return to Menchville House at 5:30 pm after singing and talking during the entire drive. The staff wants the children to capture the day’s memories so they spend a few minutes journaling and then rush off to dinner and sharing with their parents. They fall asleep in anticipation of another fun-filled day at camp.
Kenny Lee, operations director at Tom & Ann Hunnicutt YMCA, says staff members try to make sure they incorporate fun and provide activities which will hopefully enrich the lives of these campers. Reading and thinking is encouraged. Traditional camp activities will always be included and are well received. Lee feels camp songs enrich the camp experience and will always be included.
Anya is a seven-year-old Menchville House Shelter resident. Her favorite trip was to the skating rink and she also likes practicing soccer and doing arts-and-crafts, especially making pipe-cleaner puppets.
DeMonica Brown, a new Menchville House resident, is the mother of four children participating in the YMCA camp. She thinks the camp is perfect for her children because they interact with other campers the way they do at school. She is pleased to see them adjusting well in a short time span.
The 10-week-long day camp, made possible through a grant from the Bernardine Franciscan Sisters Foundation, is as valuable to the parents as it is to the campers. Shelter residents work toward returning their families to self-sufficiency, so with children at camp, a resident can work full-time without looking for childcare or take full-time advantage of the supportive services offered by Menchville House, services that include financial literacy education, employment and housing assistance. YMCA summer camp is an opportunity for children and adults to prepare for the future they see for themselves when they no longer need Menchville House’s support. Brown uses her time to work, and she would also like to look for more lucrative, better employment while her children are at camp.
Lee emphasizes that YMCA services a mixed community, children and parents from all walks of life. He says some people are looking for enrichment activities for their children. Others use the YMCA because they need a safe place for their children while at work.
Lee feels it is an honor and a privilege for the YMCA to host the group from Menchville House.