Press Release from SML Charity Home Tour
May 28, 2012
For more information, contact Jerry or Ferne Hale, 721-7222, email@example.com
Loving Values Stressed at Good Neighbors Camps
By Nancy Marshall
“Oh, those Good Neighbors rascals! They are the true spirit of Good Neighbors and the reason eight college interns get up at the crack of dawn each day, all summer,” said Elizabeth Brown, a two-year Smith Mountain Lake Good Neighbors (SMLGN) Enrichment Summer Camp intern, as she packed for return to college last August.
“The kids can drive you crazy, make you laugh, do things that surprise and scare you, all at the same time,” Brown continued. “Seeing them succeed, learn new things, and have a go
od time makes all the preparation work worthwhile. But, at the end of the day, it’s the love and compassion we show them that counts”
The SML Good Neighbors’ Enrichment Summer Camp program is a shining jewel in the crown of Franklin and Bedford Counties’ outreach to families with limited resources. Begun in 2006 by a small group of Lake residents who shared deep concerns about children in the neighboring rural Virginia community, Good Neighbors has accomplished resounding successes.
“Asking me which part of the Good Neighbors program I am most proud of...that’s like asking me which one of my children I love most. You’d better sit down--this may take a while!” said Russell Baskett, Good Neighbors’ President and Executive Director and a founding pillar of the charity.”
Central to the Good Neighbors contribution to the community are two annual Enrichment Summer Camps for students in grades one through six. Held at Moneta and Burnt Chimney Elementary Schools, each lasts four weeks. Emphasis is on reading, writing and enhancement of communication and conflict resolution skills.
“The 160 children who attend come from families in our area with limited resources,” Baskett said. “Many people don’t realize that this part of Southwest Virginia has a 13.5% poverty rate. There are many who are in need.”
Campers are chosen with the help of school administrators from six elementary schools in Bedford and Franklin Counties.
The camps introduce and promote “Good Neighbors’ Values” of living peacefully with others, respecting nature, exploring diverse cultures, and living healthy. Camp activities are designed to teach and practice skills fundamental to those values. The curriculum also emphasiz
es nonviolence, accepting diversity, compassion, honesty and integrity.
The program organizes nearly 200 volunteers from the community to address the children’s needs. “Reading buddies” read one-on-one daily, each buddy partnering with a child for a full week. The result: almost 90% of Good Neighbors campers either improve or maintain their reading levels during the summer. In contrast, the national reading retention level by children with no summer enrichment is less than 50%. Overcoming this “summer slide” is a major SML Good Neighbors’ success.
Besides Reading Buddies, other volunteers do everything from moving camp supplies as needed...to driving prepared lunches and milk to camp each day...to gathering and preparing fresh fruit and vegetables for lunches and snacks.
Improved nutrition helps foster a positive learning environment
Improved summer nutrition is another goal of SML Good Neighbors, since many of the children depend on school breakfast and lunch programs during the school year. Good Neighbors provides breakfast and lunch for the 160 children in both four-week camps, and they supplement these meals with fresh fruits and vegetables. Several hundred pounds of zucchini, yellow s
quash, cucumbers, tomatoes, peaches and watermelons are donated by local growers and prepared for the camp kids as part of the recent Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program. The SML Rotary also helps fund aspects of this effort.
At the end of each week, backpacks stuffed with nourishing weekend meals and a new book to enjoy during the weekend are provided to each child.
A second feeding project of SMLGN is the “Summer School Sack Lunch and Weekend Backpack Program” for the additional 240 children in regular summer school at six elementary schools. Sack lunches with food provided by Feed the Children, a USDA program, are delivered daily. On
The amount of food handled is huge. Each week volunteers pick up food in Rocky Mount and deliver breakfasts and lunches and pack and deliver backpacks to the enrichment camps. Additionally, volunteers pick up and deliver lunches and backpacks to six schools with regular summer school sessions. Distances volunteers travel to pick up food and deliver it to the rural and widespread schools is substantial.
Interns make a lasting impression
The kids love the interns. One grandmother told an intern, “She (her granddaughter) is going to remember each and every one of you. Even after the camp is over, she’ll keep talking about you.”
Providing opportunities for leadership training and vocational exploration for young adults through service-learning internships is another Good Neighbors camp objective. College interns who double as camp counselors are recruited to “...Spend ten weeks of exhausting, fulfilling work that may change your worldview and transform your life.” To lead the summer camp programs, Good Neighbors attracts world-class young adults as interns from Lynchburg College, Ferrum College, Guilford College, the University of Richmond, Virginia Commonwealth University and Virginia Tech, many from Bonner leadership programs. They leave the camps with treasured experience.
“I am continually amazed at the hard work, the collegiality, the side-splitting laughter from stories at camp, and the bonds of love that form over the summer” (among the interns),” Russell Baskett said. “These carefully-selected interns--primary camp facilitators--are drawn to working with and teaching the most vulnerable and at risk children.”
Three-year summer camp intern Angela Massino said: “I know that I care very deeply for these beautiful children and the potential they hold for sculpting their own futures around the Good Neighbors’ values. Just today I asked a ten year old ‘Kangaroo’ what she wants to be when she grows up. She responded, ‘I want to be a teacher, just like you.’ A couple little ones who overheard piped up with, ‘Me, too! Me, too!’”
Funding comes from donations from private individuals, churches and other sources. In 2011 SML Good Neighbors and seven other local charities each received $13,000 from the SML Charity Home Tour, which represented nearly 20% of Good Neighbors’ 2011 operating expenses. They are participants again in the 2012. Your support is encouraged.
Home Tour Details
The 2012 SML Charity Home Tour will take place Columbus Day weekend, Friday, October 5 through Sunday, October 7. The Tour, which opens eight lovely lakefront homes to visitors who can travel between homes by boat or car, will be the highlight of a many- faceted Fall Festival Showcase at Smith Mountain Lake. Tickets are $20 in advance and $25 on Tour days.
Additional information, including other participating charities, details about the eight homes, sponsors, how to volunteer and how to become a Patron may be found at www.SMLCharityHomeTour.com. In its twenty-one year history, the Tour has provided over $3 million to worthy area charities.