Most beachside kids start school with new clothes, new shoes, new school supplies and stories of family vacations – their only worry being buckling down to their studies. But for some other kids across the bridge, summer means the loss of cafeteria breakfast and lunch, and August means trying to be a “normal” kid, despite being homeless, or falling on hard times.
A Facebook network of Melbourne Beach mothers, dubbed “Mel Beach Mamas,” found out about a summer program called Camp Hope at University Park Elementary School that provides meals and activities to these kids. They found out food for Camp Hope campers would be in short supply in July. They networked. They collected. They packed, and they delivered.
Then organizer Jessica Eirkis found out from Camp Director Nesta Jordan that the kids had even greater basic needs. Eirkis created a post in the group detailing the need for clothing donations.
When the camp staff shared their desire to make the final week of camp a memorable one for these kids, the Melbourne Beach Moms rounded up and collected what was needed. “They will be good on food after this Friday’s drop-off and asked if we could dig in our closets for art supplies, water play stuff, games, etc. to bring the following Friday.” Eirkis wrote to the group.
Finally, the moms found out the Camp Hope kids lacked basic necessities to start school. Again, the Mama Machine went into full gear, and they delivered.
During the school year, Camp Hope Executive Director Drew Warren said most kids are pretty much taken care of in aftercare programs or other afterschool activities, but during school breaks, parents are at a loss. “We noticed that there was a real problem with kids during out-of-school times where if they are a low-income family, a lot of them don’t have access to daycare,” Warren said. Being unable to provide is something the Melbourne Beach moms wanted to change immediately.
Each week, Camp Hope attributes a specific educational and enriching theme for the kids to focus on and learn about, and directors work to plan a field trip that goes along with that week’s theme. An environmental theme was paired with a day at Brevard Zoo.
Without the contributions and help of the Melbourne Beach moms, most of these endeavors would not be able to happen because funds would be funneled into basic needs. “We were extremely appreciative of all of the donations from the Melbourne Beach moms. We were able to accomplish so much more within the camp this past summer with the help of the moms,” Jordan said.
Most of the 30 to 35 who attend the camp each week have not experienced little trips to enriching places before.
“I am thankful for our generous community,” said mom Julie Simms-Peake after making that first food delivery for July. “I felt that when we left Camp Hope today that they have a great start for the month.”
Camp Hope is a program of Hope of Brevard, an ecumenical faith-based organization serving Brevard’s homeless families since 2005.
Article by: Ali Heyer, correspondent