YMCA, Salvation Army partner on free summer camp for kids in need

A total of $10,000 in scholarships allowed 10 area kids to attend camp for free, for a combined total of 37 weeks, this past summer.

From the pages of In Business magazine.

This summer, as part of its mission as a community-based nonprofit to be “here for all” by reaching out to those in the margins and helping bridge society’s gaps, the YMCA of Dane County worked with The Salvation Army of Dane County to fill a need for local kids and families by covering the cost of 37 weeks of YMCA Summer Camp with more than $10,000 in scholarships for area children.

The Salvation Army Emergency Family Shelter serves homeless families in need of immediate, overnight shelter and is available daily from 4 p.m. to 8 a.m. However, in the summer months, when children do not have school, a daytime void in care and services exists for some families. So, the YMCA and Salvation Army teamed up to provide these economically disadvantaged parents with a new care option through this summer camp program.

“Y” Summer Camps provide a healthy, active, and enriching summer experience for hundreds of kids through 10 programs aimed at children ages 4–14 and spread across its three area locations — East Madison, West Madison, and Sun Prairie. Providing free camp to families through The Salvation Army not only served kids with literally nowhere else to go, it enabled caregivers to work, search for work, and engage with case workers. Stable environments for children and stable employment for caregivers are two significant steps toward a stable housing situation.

“Partnerships like this one with The Salvation Army are a critical component in addressing the needs of Madison’s underserved community,” says Mark Westover, YMCA of Dane County president and CEO. “The Y has dozens of important community partnerships in place. By collectively leveraging our strengths, we can better address the barriers facing the families we help. Our camp scholarships were not only great for the kids, they provided a respite for caregivers and allowed them to focus on working to improve their circumstances.”

With the Y Summer Camps wrapped up, the YMCA of Dane County is still in the beginning stages of its analysis of how well the program worked, but Scott Shoemaker, senior director of marketing and communications for the Y, was able to share some early returns.

As part of the pilot program, 10 children attended a total of 37 weeks of programming throughout the summer. All 10 kids attended the East Y and most were in East’s Discovery Day Camp, which features a variety of fun, creative activities designed to stimulate campers’ minds and bodies. Others attended the Sports Day Camp, which teaches kids about sports fundamentals, teamwork, and rules in a fun, play environment.

The Y is exploring grant opportunities that would enable the expansion of this partnership in 2020, but Shoemaker acknowledges it’s not a sure thing quite yet.

“Our camps are at or pretty close to capacity every year, so there are space issues to talk about, as well, if the numbers grow. The Y funded the program 100 percent this year, but that full funding is not sustainable, especially if it grows to serve more kids, so the ability to grow is at least somewhat dependent upon funding. We have one community partner that heard of the program and has already stepped up to offer support, and we have a couple of additional grant proposals that are under consideration, and of course we’re open to others.”

Organizations interested in partnering with the YMCA and Salvation Army to continue this program can reach out to Jen Kruel, YMCA vice president of development and marketing, at jkruel@ymcadane.org.

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