Building Skills

The Children’s Program lets kids learn while having fun

While the Byrne Community Building and Hixon House are the destinations of most visitors to the Haven’s bustling, modern campus, tucked away in back is a special place, a quaint yellow house that almost seems out of place and time. Bev’s House is the center of the Haven’s Children’s Program. At Bev’s, it’s all about the kids.

“We offer a hands-on, creative, strengths-based program for children in kindergarten through grade six who have experienced the trauma of homelessness,” says Children’s Program coordinator Nancy McNally. “It’s open to all families who have been guests at the Haven, whether currently or in the past.” Year round, Bev’s House—named in memory of dedicated Haven volunteer Beverly Fowle Fiertz—is bustling with activity. Nancy continues, “We’ve been open throughout the pandemic, though we had to make adjustments, of course, for safety.” During our After-School Program, many activities went online: kids continued to come to Bev’s and enjoyed activities like virtual baking projects with King Arthur Baking Company as well as art classes with the AVA Gallery and Art Center.

“These are fun, normalizing activities that open the doors to healthy, positive relationships and get kids out into the community,” says Nancy. “They’re able to build social skills in a safe, predictable environment while also developing their creativity and problem solving abilities.”

With the COVID-19 virus under greater control now, this summertime is more of a return to normal camp-like experiences such as hiking, horseback riding, and swimming. The Haven’s Summer Camp expands children’s view of the world through visits to museums and trips to places they’ve never been before like the ocean. We also continue our focus on child development through educational themes woven through fun activities. This year’s theme is Animals Across the Globe: Land, Sea, and Air. “It lets the kids have healthy new experiences,” explains Children’s Program Associate Will Henne. “I love seeing their smiles and watching them progress and grow into wonderful human beings.”

These positive experiences at the Haven stay with kids and can alter the trajectory of their lives. “A high school student contacted me about donating art supply kits to our kids,” Nancy recounts. “She explained that her family struggled with homelessness and received support from the Haven. When she was having a difficult time, she learned she could use art as a way to cope. She’s now a senior in high school and wants to go to college to be an art teacher. She understands the value of having art materials and how important organizations like the Haven are to families who are struggling.”

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