Day Camp: Shaping the Future of Our Community, by Monica Welcker

Monica in her YRG
Monica in her YRG

Two years ago, if you told me this was where I would be, I would have laughed. A lot. The thought of working with kids was not even an option or consideration for me. I had never been interested in teaching or anything relevant to the Day Camp program at all. I liked to build things, and help people with their physical needs, so I thought being a Service Project Ministry Coordinator was the job for me. But as we have been talking about in camp, there is a difference between a calling and a desire.

After my final year as a service project camper, I knew I was going to be on staff. I knew I was being called to be on the mountain, helping the amazing people in the county, and reaching out to our campers as a staff member. I decided to answer the call, and apply to be a Service Project Ministry Coordinator.

Day Camp kids at Sewanee
Day Camp kids at Sewanee

I got the call from Kim a couple weeks after my interview, offering me a position as a Day Camp Ministry Coordinator. It took me a good 24 hours to even realize what was going on. I had never heard of the day camp program, and I had no idea what it meant to the ministry. I did know that I loved this ministry and everything it stood for, so I accepted the offer.

The first few weeks were tough, because I had no idea what to expect at all; but soon enough the rewards started pouring in. Seeing how appreciative these kids were for such little things is life changing. This is probably the hardest job I will ever have, but it is also the easiest, because of how rewarding it is. I have never had a problem with motivation because every day, I can see the work I do paying off. It is amazing. 

Monica for blog

I now believe that Day Camp is the heart of this ministry (and yes I am a little biased). Don’t get me wrong, I do think that it is extremely important that we help the people of this area with the current physical needs they have. It is more than necessary to build some steps on a trailer so they can meet codes and keep custody of their kids, or a wheelchair ramp so that an elderly person can exit their trailer, but the Day Camp programs are where we are shaping the future of this community, and that is making a permanent change.

This program focuses on building resilience in the youth of the community, so they know how to face all of the issues that they will no doubt encounter. Not only that, but it helps to inform the kids of this community that they have options in their future. They don’t have to stay in Grundy County and live in the same house they have always lived in. They can go to college, they can become a pilot, or a doctor, or whatever they want to do. And I can tell you first hand, its working. I have heard kids after our visit to The University of the South raving about how much they want to go to college. I have been told after our visit to the airport that kids didn’t know how cool it would be to be a pilot. We are instilling motivation into them, that they will hopefully carry for the rest of their lives.

Coming into my second summer with this program, now as the Manager of the Day Camp program, I see exactly how God is working through me and why I have been called here. I’m here for the kids in this county, but I’m also here to keep growing our program. This program does not get nearly enough credit, and it is because of the mindset that I used to have as a camper. The mindset that it is more rewarding to build a porch than it is to “babysit” kids (I can assure you, it is far from babysitting). My goal is to start changing that. The program can’t grow unless we get more participants coming to camp, and only limited kids in the county can come if we don’t have enough vans to transport them. I am extremely excited that I have the opportunity to embrace these goals. I think that there is huge potential in this program, and I can see it growing already from what has been happening this summer. 

Already, the first week, we had 64 kids signed up. This coming week, we have 56, and almost 70 seatbelts to fill for the last week. Last year we had to tell kids they couldn’t come because we didn’t have enough seatbelts, and this year I am having to hunt down forms to make sure kids get signed up in time. The program is growing, and I cannot wait to be a hand in continuing that.