Feed the Lambs’ nourishment invaluable to needy kids

Lavaris Minus jumps rope at the Feed the Lambs Enrichment summer program at Oslo Middle School aimed to provide recreation, education and mentoring for children at no cost. [Photo: Kaila Jones]

As the need for positive, educational activities for underprivileged children continues to grow, the Feed the Lambs Enrichment Program has stepped up to ensure they have access to summer camp and mentoring programs. Its “flock” of children has tripled in the past five years.

The faith-based nonprofit, led by board president John May, is designed to engage, educate and empower children through recreation, education and mentorship. In addition to free afterschool tutoring during the school year, Feed the Lambs offers a free seven-week summer camp.

May says they moved the program to Oslo Middle School several years ago after observing a lack of services in the south county area.

“There was nothing really going on for these kids. This is a low-income area, where both mother and father have to go to work and can’t afford to send their kids to summer camp or pay for someone to watch them,” he explains, adding that children outside the south county area are now also using their services.

“We have kids coming from all over Indian River County for the summer camp – Sebastian, Vero and Gifford.”

He says children need a safe place where they can avoid drugs and alcohol, while also developing social skills in an enriching environment.

“They should be having fun and getting educated,” says May.

Because of the ever-growing need, the organization itself has need of financial assistance.

“We have 125 kids registered this year. We need the resources to increase the number of kids that we can help,” says May. “Five years ago, the program was four hours a day and served 40 kids. Now, it’s seven hours a day, five days a week. The need is out there, and we’re not able to take in any more kids.”

His wife Kenya, their program coordinator, says that in addition to reading, math and value lessons, they provide two meals daily, exercise and a weekly field trip.

“A lot of our students struggle with school. We want to keep their minds going over the summer, so when they go back to school, it’s not so hard,” she explains. “Some of the children that come to Feed the Lambs have never had someone say ‘I love you,’ or been hugged. They don’t know wrong from right. We show them that somebody does care and we teach them the three Rs: Respect, Responsibility and Rules.”

To impart the importance of kindness, empathy and giving back to others, the children are taken to visit seniors at local nursing homes. They collaborate with other charities, such as Epic Missions and the Children’s Home Society, and the Learning Alliance’s Moonshot Bookmobile stops by so children can take home books, helping to reinforce the daily reading activities.

During the school year, staff and volunteers assist children with their homework through mentoring and after-school tutoring three days a week.

Last year they added PIE (Parents Improving Education), a parent education facet. Parents are required to attend five hours of math, reading or computer instruction in exchange for their children’s participation in the tutoring program. A number of teachers from Oslo Middle School volunteer to instruct the parents on ways they can assist their children at home with their studies.

Older students needing volunteer hours also help out, and Kenya May says that they are now able to offer a stipend to some of their former campers who have outgrown the program.

“It teaches them how to work,” she adds.

“We couldn’t do what we do without the support of the community,” says John May, adding that they rely on donations, grants from local funders and churches, and fundraising – such as the upcoming ’60s and ’70s Dance Off fundraiser on Nov. 16 – to support their programs.

For more information, visit feedthelambsep.com.

Photos by: Kaila Jones
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