Summer 2017 marked the third full summer of children’s programming at Bev’s House (the Beverly Fowler Fiertz Community Center). Three staff members, one AmeriCorps member, two interns, and a team of dedicated volunteers welcomed 12 – 14 kids daily for eight weeks. All the kids live at the Haven or have in the past. The participants enjoyed breakfast, lunch, and a snack daily and each day included gardening—through a Gardens for Learning grant from the Vermont Community Garden Network—or cooking, 20 minutes of reading, and swimming at the Sherman Manning Pools in Hartford, VT.
Wednesdays were a popular day of the week: field trip day! Children’s Services Coordinator, Erin Wetherell, says that the kids had their best days when they could just be kids and be themselves at sites like Treasure Island on Lake Fairlee and Krazy Kids Indoor Play Center. Other on-site and off-site special activities included:
- ArtisTree in Pomfret, VT (community arts center and gallery)
- Ben & Jerry’s in Waterbury, VT
- Moonrise Farm in Taftsville, VT (week-long therapeutic horseback-riding program)
- High Horses in Sharon, VT (donor-funded week-long therapeutic horseback-riding program)
- Cobb Hill Farm in Hartland, VT
- Pitney Bowes in White River Junction, VT (job-shadowing, office scavenger hunt, learning about mapping technology, and experiencing a working office space)
- Upper Valley Humane Society in Enfield, NH
- Silver Lake in Barnard, VT
- Dartmouth College in Hanover, NH (a taste of Strength and Conditioning at the Floren Strength Training Center and Dartmouth athletic facilities)
- World Story Exchange on-site at the Haven (storytelling through images—each child got to use their own digital camera!) and off-site in Norwich (kids explored the forest, went swimming in a pond, caught critters, and went canoeing)
Friday was reserved for swimming at Storrs Pond, thanks to the generous donation of passes from a Haven board member. While swimming in the summer may be taken for granted by some, it offered these kids access to an opportunity they may not have otherwise and exposed them to water and development of a valuable skill.
The benefits of the children’s summer program often go beyond the official hours of 8:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. Erin shares that Children’s Services works hard to provide transportation for campers throughout the summer to make sure they can attend, plus they have a goal of helping kids increase their access to other camps by helping them get into at least one other week-long program besides the Haven’s. Although meals were provided during camp, Erin and her team also operate a weekend food backpack program year-round to ensure that children who may receive free or reduced lunch during the school year can receive have access to healthy food at home throughout the weekend.
Erin shares, “We are lucky to live in a community that supports its most vulnerable members and the Summer Program ensures that the kids we serve will have the same opportunities as their peers for continued enrichment in the summer months. As a program, we try to decrease any barriers a child might have to participating from operating our program free of cost to providing meals and transportation, all the way down to sunscreen and bug spray. Kids are already asking about our plans for next summer, and we know that along the way memories were made and kids could back to school proud to share the experiences they had over the summer.”