Summer GAP (God’s awesome People) Kids Camp 2019 located at West Branch First United Methodist Church has served 74 children from 55 different families during our first 5 weeks with an average of 43 children per day. Our program’s operational hours are from 8 a.m. until 5:15 for 6-weeks, Monday through Friday and offer this program at no cost to participating families. We have surrounded these children of whom 55% are not churched families, with God’s love and daily living example each day with a Bible Story, crafts, reading room, prayer wall, make a snack, indoor and outdoor games with a daily theme wrapped around all activities every day. Find a plastic ‘Jesus’ figurine is a frequently enjoyed game. Mission money and patriotic songs are the beginning of each day, followed by centers, morning snack, lunch, afternoon activities and afternoon snack with all those above and below listed activities scheduled in-between. Our breakfast and lunches are provided by our local West Branch–Rose City Area Schools’ Summer Food program for all peoples in our closed site at serving time. We provide faith, food, fellowship, and fun to our participants! We guarantee to tire out the area’s children and they will beg their parents to come back the following day.
In addition to the daily activities, weekly we have had:
- Simple old fashioned children’s songs were taught and shared by Shayna Castle from Stage Right Performances of Standish,
- A visit from our local Michigan State University’s Extension SNAP education presenter, Mrs. Elaine (Bristol) Palm visit on Mondays for 6 weeks (former summer intern in our program from 11 years ago!),
- We swim in the parsonage’s pool on Tuesdays, with an Ogemaw Height’s lifeguard for safety,
- Walk to the local West Branch District Library to participate in the their summer reading program on Wednesdays;
- Went on field trips to our local Skate Place, our West Branch Waste Water Treatment Plant, West Branch Eye Care, and our mission sites- the Villa, the Brook, and Horizon Senior Living Centers, where we visited with, sang songs too and made a craft with the residents; played at our local Iron’s Park on August 1st to float homemade boats downstream in races and playing on the playground equipment at the park, too, on Thursdays; and
- Fridays we have spent time learning how to play hand bells, and learned about safe banking practices led by representatives from Northland Credit Union and a past program director, Teresa Snyder.
Outside play of slip-n-slides, tire swing time, chalk drawings, giant bubbles, water balloons relays, tag, sharks and minnows, lots of games of board games, chess and checkers, and manipulative toys such as Legos, magnetic blocks, Lincoln Logs, K’nex, and/or Hot Wheel tracks and cars can round out any given day. An occasional movie is shown during aftercare. Zero electronics can be found in our daily programs.
To round out our program, we have spent time with our community’s State Police Officer, Trooper Shane Noble, local EMS people, and West Branch Fire Department and trucks. We have also learned about proper teeth care and received a toothbrush and paste from a local dentist. In addition, we will have learned six different Bible Verses of which have been our discipline basis for the program this summer. All children who successfully learn all six will earn a giant candy bar of their choice!
We have three Young Adult Mentors (YAMs) as staff members plus myself as director who are paid to run our program. The YAMs handle the bulk of the children’s discipline, lead the Bible studies, plan and orchestrate the daily programs with the participants. In-kind donations of consumable supplies are always received gratefully, a request and donations received sheet are located within our fellowship hall. We heavily rely on adult volunteers to provide additional support for our program. The bulk of my volunteers this year are older retired adults however, I have gained a couple of young mothers with infants, too. We can always use additional volunteers… Come in for a couple of hours once a week and you will become one of my best friends! Check out our Facebook Webpage @FMOEnrichments at West Branch First United Methodist Church to view some of our “live” adventures or our church website @ westbranchfumc.org.
Yours in Christ and service,
Linda L. Hall, B.S.W., Summer GAP Site & Staff Director & Family Ministries OutReach Coordinator