March 11, 2021

Connecting Through Distancing

St. Clairsville, OH chapter directors were informed seventeen days before the scheduled camp week that Ohio’s foster children were released from the shelter-in-place orders. Camp was on! The work normally completed by May had to be done in 2.5 weeks; but they knew this would not be a ‘business-as-usual’ 5-day residential camp week.

Adapting required adherence to guidelines seasoned with creativity. Chapel was set up according to Ohio/CDC guidelines. Taped boundaries on the floor surrounded ten chairs per square to accommodate social distancing. In the cafeteria, 5 chairs surrounded the separated table with additional seating outdoors. Ten hand-sanitized people were let in at a time to pick up their trays from masked servers and head to tables. In a normal year, they would serve one hundred and twenty diners. Accommodating ninety this year was comfortable within the space.

Normally, 55 children would be cared for by the team of volunteers. This year, of the thirty-three campers in attendance, all but 2 were returning campers- the 2 being siblings coming for the first-time.

Sleeping arrangements were also socially distant. In dorm rooms designed for sixteen, there were 8 accommodated. The sleepers were head-to-toe with an empty bed between. During the day the game of 9-square on land or in the water naturally separates the participants. The most creative naturally social distant event was the drive-in movie.

During activity time, each child decorated a large box with automobile-like features. Once done they were parked for the evening activity. After dinner their boxes were “driven in” to the auditorium, and with pillows and blankets, children leaned back and watched The Robinsons, an animated film about foster care and adoption. How much was spent? $1.48 for each box at Walmart. Chapter directors said it was just like Christmas when kids get toys and want to play with the box instead. He gives Heidi credit for the brilliant idea, but I suppose she would agree that this has the sweet scent of the Holy Spirit.

The campground is peppered with Purple Maple trees. Each year at the closing ceremony the children write upon a note a private message to God about something of tragic significance. The notes are dropped into a large hole after into which is placed a Purple Maple sapling. If you knew where the campground was, you could look at a satellite photo and see how they stand out; but as all directors know, that information is kept private.

What does stand out is the eternal impact the St. Clairsville, OH chapter directors have with their passionate and committed team are making upon the hearts of children from traumatic backgrounds. The St Clairsville chapter has been transforming the lives of attending children for twenty-five years. With the integration of mentoring and TRAC, they Keep Moving Forward!

This is the heart of God. This is the heart of our volunteers!

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