Mar. 29, 2013
The Beth-El "Food & Fun" Summer Day Camp provides breakfast and lunch to children who normally use the free meal program during the school year.
Community Contact Information:
San Antonio, TX
- Feed children in the Temple neighborhood during the summer who normally use the school free breakfast and lunch program.
- Provide activities between the two meals.
- Provide an opportunity for Temple members and residents in the community to volunteer their time, talents, and creativity.
- Provide a "Back-to-School" Community Health Fair for children in the day camp.
The Beth-El "Food & Fun" Summer Day Camp provides breakfast and lunch to children who normally use the free meal program during the school year. Over 200 Temple and neighborhood volunteers provide sports and activities, as well as a Health Fair with free health screenings and immunizations. We collaborate with neighborhood church volunteers to create a strong interfaith partnership. We partner with the San Antonio Food Bank, who trains our volunteers and brings all the food served twice daily.
We have run this program in the summers of 2010, 2011, and 2012. In January of 2010, our Senior Rabbi, Barry Block, encouraged Temple members to attend a presentation by the San Antonio Food Bank to hear about their summer food service program. There our Temple members spoke with the Food Bank's Member Services Coordinator about the project and learned of her idea to turn the program into a "Day Camp." The idea was presented to and approved by the Temple's Board of Trustees, and was presented to the Kimmelman Fund Trustees for the funds to hire a camp director, a camp counselor, and supplies for the activities portion of the Day Camp, as well as an extra building custodian. We formally applied to the San Antonio Food Bank to be an official "Feeding Site." When we were accepted, several food volunteers attended a training session at the San Antonio Food Bank to learn proper procedures for food handling. We are an official President's Volunteer Service Awards Distribution Site, and this was marketed to our Religious School teenagers and adult members as a way to earn hours for this prestigious award.
The "Beth-El Food & Fun" Summer Day Camp was held in 2010, 2011, and 2012 in Temple Beth-El's Barshop Auditorium. The day camp ran the first Monday after school was let out for the summer, through the last week before school re-convened, Monday through Friday, from 8:00 am to 12:30 or 1:00 pm. Breakfast was served in one corner of our large auditorium by trained volunteers every morning from 8:00 to 9:00 am. The San Antonio Food Bank delivered the breakfast food for the next day on the previous afternoon, and it was stored in large coolers (provided by the Food Bank) in our large walk-in refrigerators. During the first month of operation each summer, a representative from the Texas Department of Agriculture came to visit the site and inspect the area where the food was served. Several times throughout each summer, representatives from the San Antonio Food Bank came by during meal service time to make sure we were following all the proper procedures. Lunch was served from 11:30 am to 12:30 pm.
The activities portion of our day camp was also held in our large auditorium. All ages were accommodated from children who were potty-trained to those in their teens. Stations were set up in separate areas of our large auditorium for small children, a reading corner, a crafts table, a ping-pong table, a four-square ball area, a discovery science area, and games area. Games, toys, equipment, etc. were largely donated by Temple members, and a few items were purchased from our budget. Some of the volunteer-run scheduled activities included tennis lessons by a Temple member who is a pro wheelchair tennis player, role-play games, puppet shows by our senior rabbi, cooking classes by local Temple member chefs, magic shows, yoga (taught by a 90-year-old Temple member), craft projects, dancing, kick-boxing, zoo presentation of reptiles, therapy dog familiarization, one rancher brought one of his horses, around the world trips (with maps and play passports), and countless other projects.
Many strong bonds were formed between volunteers and day campers, and many of the same volunteers and day campers have been with us for all three years.
The "Beth-El Food & Fun" Summer Day Camp provided breakfast and lunch to children in the neighborhood who normally receive free meal service during the school year. Not only were we able to feed the children, we were able to provide a fun and safe environment for the children, and the parents were relieved to have a place for them to go. Volunteers, whether they worked at the check-in desk, served food, provided crafts or activities, or just came to play or read with the children, came away satisfied that they had done something worthwhile, and were almost always touched deeply by the experience. Volunteers talked to their friends, and word got out, so that some days, we had as many as 20 volunteers, allowing us to provide individualized attention for day campers. In 2012, this community relationship culminated in our hosting a Community Health Fair to our Summer Day Campers and other children in the neighborhood. 55 vendors, six churches and their volunteers were present, and free health screenings, education, and immunizations were provided. Plans are already underway for another Community Health Fair this summer with the addition of a Mobile Food Pantry. A side benefit is the exposure to a different faith. 99% of the day campers are Hispanic, and have no exposure to Judaism.