By Susan Miller
Director of Marketing/Communications
July 14, 2017
This week, 19 boys and girls, members of Camp Ockanickon and Camp Matollionequay’s Leaders-in-Training program, went to the Food Bank of South Jersey and helped assemble enough meals to feed 3,500 children struggling with food insecurity in the counties of Camden, Burlington, Gloucester and Salem. The Food Bank’s Summer Meals program provides kids with free breakfast, lunch and snacks on a daily basis during the 10 weeks when schools are not in session.
According to the Food Bank, the summer months are often a vulnerable time, food quantity-wise and nutritionally, for kids from low-income areas who don’t have access to school meals.
And so, in assembly-line fashion, our LIT teens spent a morning preparing and packaging sandwiches, vegetables, beverages and treats, which were later delivered to families in need. I caught up with them after their trip, and judging from the comments of the participants, it was a very meaningful experience:
An LIT from Camp Ockanickon explained, “We were able to package 3,500 meals within a 3-hour shift. It’s pretty impressive; the Food Bank plans to feed more than 800,000 kids this summer in four counties.”
Another LIT commented, “I feel like I helped a lot of kids and that felt good. We did more than what they expected us to do,” he added, proudly.
“I recommend we do this again,” another teen piped in.
Vicky, the LIT director at Camp Matollionequay (our sleepaway camp for girls), said she was so impressed by the teens involved. “It was a really cool thing to be part of, and to watch our LITs. Some of our own campers know what it means to be hungry and it meant a lot to them to know they were helping others. It was an awesome experience.”
Leaders-in-Training (LIT) is a three-week program, designed to give participants (ages 15 and completed ninth grade for sleepaway camp/ages 14 and completed eighth grade for day camp) the opportunity to learn the skills and qualities required to lead groups in identifying and achieving their goals. LITs develop these skills by participating in discussions and group work and by observing others. The program is very selective, and our camp directors choose candidates who are serious about broadening their leadership skills and who aren’t afraid of hard work. As in everything we do at camp, the focus of the LIT program is to incorporate the YMCA four core values of caring, honesty, respect and responsibility.
Around the three camps (Stockwell, Ockanickon and Matollionequay) in the summer, the LITs often sport specific T-shirts that identify them as such. When they’re not volunteering at places like the Food Bank, they can be found shadowing activity directors and the kitchen staff, and learning how to plan and implement camp programs. Often, they spend time with camp directors to learn what happens behind the scenes at camp. These teens – these future leaders – are impressive young people to watch and to be around.
It’s yet another example of the good work that happens here every day!