Summer vacation is a treasured time for children around the world; however, a lack of community centers and other outlets available in communities have posed a problem for many working parents who must leave their children unattended this time of year.
First Trinity Church of God in Christ is working five days a week to ensure that these children have a safe, productive environment to enjoy their summer while helping out working parents.
It was DeWitt Hill Jr., pastor of First Trinity Church of God in Christ, who birthed the vision that would later become the basis for the summer camp currently being held in the church’s annex building located on 2900 W. Sixth Ave.
Hill realized that there was a concerning amount of parents who were unable to attend work during the summer months because they lacked the funds or resources for childcare. He also noticed that many children occupied themselves with dangerous or harmful hobbies during the summertime because there wasn’t much to do.
A problem that through the help of neighborhood volunteers and church members, First Trinity Church of God in Christ has been fighting since the re-opening of the summer program in 2009.
“At that time, our primary concern was providing an avenue in the area for young folks during the summer so they can get out the streets and have some activity to get involved in,” said Glayton Johnson, building supervisor for the Trinity Annex. “And also to give parents a place to bring their child when they go to work.”
Johnson has been manning the annex’s summer camp since its re-opening and said that interacting with the different children who attend the summer camp is fun. The staff includes volunteers and young interns who are placed at the annex to provide them a safe place to work and earn money.
Every morning, Johnson and his teams open the annex doors at 6:15 a.m. to accommodate parents who work early morning shifts or must commute to other cities for work. Parents can pick up their children at 5 p.m., the typical end time for a day at camp.
Although located in Jefferson County, they welcome children from other areas, with some recent families registering from Altheimer and Wabbaseka. The camp currently has over 30 students in attendance this summer. The average number of registered students over the past years have been between 30 and 40.
Children enrolled in the summer camp will enjoy a week’s worth of scheduled activities including basketball, volleyball, table tennis, Foosball and weekly field trips. One such trip will be to the Crater of Diamonds in Murfreesboro, Arkansas.
The facility is equipped with a library, lounge area for students to enjoy some television, a gym loaded with games and a basketball court, showers, as well as a computer lab that is in the process of being updated with the help of J.C. Kindle, the computer lab supervisor and tech at Trinity Annex.
The annex is currently looking for organizations who would be willing to lend their facility, and they are also in need of full-sized bicycles so that students can enjoy some physical activity, Kindle said.
“We don’t need them to donate them,” Kindle said. “We transport these kids to the Regional Park, and we would just let them ride around in circles out there.”
The consistent work that the Trinity Annex does to provide a safe haven for local children has not gone unnoticed.
Johnson told the story of a young boy who pleaded against his mom’s decision to bring him to the camp with a physical protest that lasted for minutes. After trusting the camp’s staff with her child for the day, she was surprised to find her child hiding from her upon arrival, not wanting to leave.
“I’ve had parents tell me that we’ve helped so much with food, and just giving their kids a safe environment to be in while they were at work,” said Johnson when elaborating on how the program provides students with two meals and a snack daily.
According to Johnson, Trinity Annex lends its facilities to organizations around the community during the school year when students are not occupying the building for little to no costs.
“The Lord has blessed us to be able to operate this building on low costs,” Johnson said.
First Trinity’s Church of God in Christ offers the use of its annex building for church services, banquets, weddings, funerals and other events held around the community. They have also been known to provide AAU basketball teams use their basketball courts for practice during the league’s on-season.
“All we need to know is the time and date so we can put it in the schedule,” Johnson said.
For families interested in enrolling their children in the Trinity Annex summer camp, registration is currently open. Parents can find more information at the facility’s West Sixth Avenue location or via telephone at (870) 534-2983.