State budget cuts don’t stop program

Last updated: July 09. 2014 10:21AM - 410 Views
By HEATHER STEPHENSON contributing writer

Visitors from the West Union Fire Department offer youth participating in this year's Summer 'Rec.' Program a way to cool off after a day of outdoor games.
Visitors from the West Union Fire Department offer youth participating in this year's Summer 'Rec.' Program a way to cool off after a day of outdoor games.
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For the 42nd year the Adams County Juvenile Court hosted the annual Summer Recreation Program from June 16 to 27, offering summer activities for almost 300 local children, ages 8 to 16 years, at the Adams County Fairgrounds. Sponsored by Judge Brett Spencer and the county probation department, the program was designed to provide a means of constructive entertainment for youth living in the county.

“Our goal is to give kids in the area something fun to do during the summer in a positive environment,” co-director Mike Parker said, “It’s basically a preventative program organized by the court that is designed to keep them out of trouble now and potentially in the future.”

A five-year veteran of the Summer Rec. Program, Parker is one of three primary directors of this year’s program with Joyce DeMint and Chrystal Jones, both also from the Juvenile Court, working as well.

Through the use of bus transportation provided by Ohio Valley and Manchester Local school districts, the program offers pick-ups at locations including the former-elementary school in Peebles, the Lion’s Club park, the site of the old elementary in Seaman, as well as others.

Like the other basic operation necessities of the program, all busing costs are paid for through a preventative grant provided by the Ohio Department of Youth Services titled “Reclaim Ohio,” along with funding contributions from the Adams County Medical Foundation, the National Bank of Adams County and the First State Bank of Adams County. The grant was initially created as a means of bringing children in areas with few recreational options together through constructive, entertaining activities.

“For some kids, this is the only thing they do the entire summer,” Parker said, “A lot of them come in on the first day and they’re absolutely worn out because this is really the first time they’ve been outside all summer. Then, of course, they get into the groove of doing outside activities and not just sitting inside all day with a computer or cell-phone.”

In addition to providing healthy amounts of outdoor exercise, a primary focus of the program is the promotion of social development.

“This is good exercise in a pro-social environment,” Parker said. “It’s a group experience and it gets them familiar with kids from other schools.”

“It’s really a unification process for children from different parts of the county,” DeMint added.

This year’s activities primarily included recreational games such as dodge-ball, basketball, water-balloon fights, and a talent show, broken into preliminaries and a finale.

“It’s basically recess for two weeks. What do kids love more than recess?” Parker said.

In addition to recreational games, the program features special guests including Sheriff Kimmy Rodgers and representatives from the West Union Life-Squad, Fire and Health Department — each striving to positively impact the lives of the children in attendance.

“If you take the extra time now to show the kids right and wrong now, on a positive note, then we can avoid the same lesson years from now on a negative note after they may have gotten into trouble with the court,” Parker said.

Although the program is centered at the fairgrounds, off-location excursions are a large part of the program.

“This year we went to the Adams Lake,” Parker said, “We worked with Bill Wickerham, a wildlife specialist here in Adams County, to organize a fishing trip. There were several volunteers with the Ohio State Parks, along with several county volunteers and they provided the kids with fishing poles. The Ohio Dept. of Natural Resources provided bait as well, which was wax worms – kind of funny with the kids – and they just let them fish.”

In addition to fishing, corn-hole and volleyball were available at the park and guides took attendees on nature hikes throughout the park.

Prepared food and ice cream were also provided each day during the two-week program through funding provided by a Manchester grant.

“We take attendance and send the number down and they provide the Summer ‘Rec.’ kids with food,” Parker explained, “It’s a great resource to have. Without that assistance, it would be very difficult to have this program.”

Although the last few years have included numerous off-site trips, including Long’s Retreat, Sunset Bowling Alley, The Beach Water-Park, and the YMCA on the final day as a finale trip, this year’s program suffered cuts to its funding, forcing the directors to make do with smaller activities.

“This year we weren’t sure if we would be able to have it or not basically up to the last moment and we decided to use what we had and hold the program anyway,” Parker said.

According to DeMint, the funding provided through the Summer ‘Rec.’ Program’s primary grant is shared with a year’s worth of other programs and, as the final event in the progression, it has most potential to experience financial strain from inefficiencies.

“With Reclaim Ohio, there is a formula they go by and the county receives money from Ohio Department of Youth Services and we use it for different programs,” DeMint explained, “Next year, we’ll have seven programs and this is the last one we do. If we’ve used a lot for the other ones then we don’t have very much left for this one.”

Due to funding difficulties, a large portion of the benefits provided by the program are offered through the support of local organizations and businesses including the Adams County Fair Board, National Bank of Adams County, First State Bank of Adams County, West Union Fire Department and staff, West Union Life Squad and staff, Prather’s IGA, Commac Foods, Go Tees, and C-103.

“We have so many people to thank,” DeMint said, “There are so many people involved, not necessarily donating items, but mainly their time. We’re so grateful to the fair board for allowing us to use their grounds and the schools for transporting the children, as well as many others.”

“If it weren’t for the volunteers and donations, we wouldn’t be able to have the program,” she added.

In addition to daily prizes (including squirt-guns, movies, and cameras) the juvenile courts provided several grand prizes on the program’s final day for children who attended it every day. Using the names gathered each day during attendance documentation, they held a drawing for prizes ranging from games consoles, bicycles, to a trampoline.

“One little girl got the movie Frozen the other day and she was so excited,” Parker said.

Despite soaring summer temperatures, volunteers and directors alike are motivated by an aspiration to positively affect the lives of youth in the area and they use this desire as the principal guide for the summer program.

“We do it for the kids,” DeMint said, “It’s hot and there’s a lot of paperwork involved, but in the end it pays off because it’s all about helping them. Really, we hope that a program like this will allow us to make a positive impact on their lives. It’s not just standing in front of them saying, ‘This is right, this is wrong,’ it’s the interaction and learning through this experience.”

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