Children’s Services at the Upper Valley Haven provides opportunity, support, and a safe space for current and former school-aged shelter guests year-round at Bev’s House (the Beverly Fowler Fiertz Community Center). Summer 2018 marked the fourth full summer of all-day (8:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m.) programming, full of enriching activities to keep attendees engaged and prevent the “summer slide.”
In many cases, the children attending the program would not be able to attend any structured programs or camps outside the home due to finances or logistics. When asked what they would be doing during the summer if they weren’t in the Summer Program, the kids responded with “sitting at home,” “playing video games,” “watching TV,” and “on my phone.”
Through the generosity of donors, the program enjoyed a number of firsts this summer, including:
- Free breakfast and lunch thanks to the Hartford Community Coalition and Take a Bite Out of Hunger
- A Silver Lake field trip contributed by a Mud Ball 2018 donor
- Free tennis lessons at Storrs Pond Recreation Area all summer long, sponsored by the Hanover Improvement Society
- A field trip to World Story Exchange’s land in Norwich
Other field trips and activities included kayaking on the Connecticut River in Wilder through the Boots to Boats initiative, exploring the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park in Woodstock, weekly visits from Beth Reynolds of the Norwich Public Library, hiking Gile Hill in Hanover, a Dartmouth athlete experience and tour with the Dartmouth College Strength and Conditioning staff, swimming at Upper Valley Aquatic Center, a day at Treasure Island in Thetford, visits to Krazy Kids Indoor Play Center, a Power of Produce presentation by Vital Communities, cooling off on the splash pad at Storrs Pond, coming face-to-face with the animals at the Vermont Institute of Natural Sciences in Quechee, and the kids’ unanimous favorite: horseback riding with High Horses Therapeutic Riding Program in Sharon and MoonRise Farm in Taftsville. Plus arts and crafts, cooking, baking, reading, gardening, outdoor play, and financial literacy were all offered at Bev’s House.
Not only does the Haven offer summer programming on campus, but there is a goal of sending each child to an additional camp by providing scholarships and/or transportation. Beyond making sure kids have meals and snacks while attending the program, Children’s Services also works with the Food Shelf to provide weekend food box drop-offs to families in the program who could benefit from additional groceries; this program continues throughout the year.
In addition to all the fun that these kids can experience during the summer, Children’s Services maintains a focus on social-emotional learning and ensures that resources are available for these children to gain knowledge and develop skills related to managing emotions, setting and achieving goals, creating and maintaining positive relationships, and making good decisions. This summer, the Haven was lucky to have Brittany Sipe, an intern working on her Masters in Mental Health Counseling at Plymouth State University, apply some of her education to better support program attendees. The Children’s Services team, led by Erin Wetherell (who will participate in Vital Communities’ year-long personal and professional development program, Leadership Upper Valley, in 2018-2019), looks forwards to continued community partnerships and expanded sessions or services in the future that would allow them to maximize the number of children they are able to serve.