Kids Place Summer of Service
Michele Ostafy, Director, Family Support & Education, Child, Inc.
Donna Johnson, Program Coordinator, Child, Inc.
They packed 460 boxes of food products at the Food Bank of Delaware. On another day they engaged in landscape maintenance and cleaned horse saddles for New Castle County, Carousel Equestrian Center. In the heat of July, they helped tend the gardens, learned about beekeeping, goats, and other animals at Point Lookout. Each week, they spent special time in games, dancing, and lunch with individuals from Community Systems, Inc., an organization that supports adults with developmental disabilities.
This is but a snapshot of the Kids Place Summer of Service Program (SOS) 2021. Twenty-three youth from Sparrow Run, a community of 550 townhomes in an area challenged by poverty and crime in Newark, Delaware, participated in a variety of community service activities over five weeks under the supervision of CHILD, Inc.’s Kids Place and Family Resource Center staff. Of course, it was not all work and no play. SOS participants had time each Friday to enjoy the water - swimming and boating - and spending time inside jumping on trampolines.
Challenging the stereotype of disengaged youth, hanging out in the streets with nothing to do, the SOS participants, ages 11 to 17, demonstrated a commitment to the daily excursions and participated with enthusiasm as they tackled some exciting as well as mundane activities. While groups of 8 participated each week in the outings, the other SOS participants were active in other ways with Kids Place’s regular summer programming including working as a group on a practice podcast – “KP Table Talk”. The podcast episodes, around various topics including their opinions about parents, stressors at school, and the impact of popular music on younger kids, made for interesting conversation.
An important component of the SOS project was post-activity journaling. Staff encouraged participants to record their thoughts, impressions, and/or ideas sparked by the activity. This journaling aspect of the program allowed youth to reflect and record as they chose.
Another part of the SOS 2021 program included engagement with Faithful Friends Animal Rescue. Participants made animal treats for the dogs and helped tend to the “cat condos” and litter boxes. Even those who weren’t crazy about cats found a new affection for the felines.
The SOS 2021 program demonstrated group cohesion, positive engagement, and role modeled leadership to younger participants. A key goal was to help youth from the community engage in activities outside their comfort zone and reflect on the experience.
All in all, participants gave SOS rave reviews. A special celebration was held at the end of August at the 24th Annual Sparrow Run Community Day where New Castle County Executive Matt Meyer awarded Summer of Service participants certificates of achievement. While the year 2021 presented the community and the kids with many challenges, the summer of 2021 will be remembered fondly.
Summer of Service 2021 was made possible by grants from JPMorgan Chase and Seeds of Greatness Church.
Summer of Service community partners:
Community Systems, Inc.
Faithful Friends Animal Rescue
Food Bank of Delaware
Love of Christ Church
New Castle County, Carousel Equestrian Center
Point Lookout Farms
What’s the connection to domestic violence?
Poverty and financial instability are both factors that contribute to an increased likelihood for sexual, domestic, and intimate partner violence to occur. The Sparrow Run Family Resource Center helps improve financial stability for their community by increasing access to key resources such as WIC, TANF, and SNAP. Additionally, community cohesion has been shown to assist in mitigating harmful factors that may lead to these forms of violence. As demonstrated, the SOS 2021 program is one example of ways a community can build cohesion.
While these efforts alone will not prevent violence, they are a part of a much larger effort to build a society where violence is not tolerated. To learn more about DCADV’s many prevention initiatives, visit www.dcadv.org/what-we-do/prevention or contact email@example.com.