BERLIN — When Worcester Youth and Family Counseling Services took up the challenge to provide the town with children’s programs, there wasn’t a lot of concern about their qualifications.
The nonprofit merely convinced the town that allowing them the $24,000 annually that had originally been set aside for one part-time employee to do the work was a good investment. But “good investment” doesn’t begin to get at what they’ve already accomplished in such a short period of time.
WYFCS floated the idea of taking over the community coordinator position in March and at the council’s request set about preparing summer programs for the town’s needy youth.
In a report to the council Monday, Teresa Fields, executive director for WYFCS, said the program has been such a success that the nonprofit has committed some of its own funds to its operation.
She said WYFCS has committed $10,500 to the program and has also had some success in securing grants from Homes for America and the Choptank charitable foundation to feed the children participating in the program. She added that many other businesses have donated food and services.
Making sure the children who participate in the program get a good meal is a significant part of the WYFCS plan to keep the program successful.
Stephanie Gordy, who runs the program for WYFCS in addition to her regular duties at the nonprofit, spoke to the council about the continuing plans for the rest of this, phase one camp as well as plans for caps to follow as the summer continues.
Each day has an amount of both physical and mental work aimed at making sure the campers remain active while keeping up to speed on basic academic skills, a statement that drew praise from Mayor Gee Williams.
“I’m absolutely convinced that some of the children fall behind in the summer,” Williams said. “We have an opportunity here to maybe at least help the children make some advancement.”
As part of the field trip aspect of the camps, participants will have an etiquette class at the Sunset Grille and become involved in the Berlin Arts scene.
They will produce art from recycled products and have a showing of their work at the Globe to kick of a tour of the town aimed at giving the children a fresh look into their own backyards.
Carolyn Cordial, another of the WYFCS employees running the camp, said many of the children participating have learning disabilities and other intellectual impediments that can make the academic aspect of the program challenging.
But such is the work the camp has done that those students who spend their mornings at summer school still come to the camp in the afternoons to continue their engagement. Those who do not have summer school try to squeeze every ounce out of the experience, often showing up an hour early for their day. Camp is the highlight of the children’ days.
“They’re coming back, ”Cordial said. “They’re coming before we get there.”
As the partnership with the town moves forward, Fields said WYFCS hopes to generate the funding to allow Gordy to take the project on as a full-time job. They have already begun coordinating with the schools’ to support and create after-school programs and other child-related innovations aimed at supporting the town’s youth.