PORT RICHEY — With school days ending, many parents are looking for ways to keep their children occupied and safe while they are away at work.
The Salvation Army of Pasco County is offering such an option as they prepare to open the doors to their annual day camp for children ages 5 – 11.
The camp will run from June 10 through Aug. 2 and will be held at the Salvation Army’s campus located at 7745 Ridge Road.
Corps Officer Major Robert Winters said the camp’s roll call is better kept at around 40, but the staff and facilities are able to host more if necessary.
“We have been hosting the camp for at least 15 years since we have been in this facility,” Winters said of the corps’ Worship and Service Center, on Ridge Road. “We are blessed to have such a great facility with a full-size gym and classrooms. It just makes sense for us to do this kind of thing and this is a community that needs that.”
Winters said the camp will run every weekday, from 7 a.m. until 5:30 p.m.
He added keeping the number of children to the 40 level is one where the staff “is able to have good quality time with them.”
“By license and our physical space available, we could have 240,” Winters said. “But with the available staff, we might be able to go has high as 50 or 60 before placing applicants on a wait list.”
Winters noted the positive side of having children attend the camp goes well beyond just the need for a safe place to be while parents or guardians are away at work.
“For parents, there is the knowledge their kids are safe and not running the streets,” Winters said. “That didn’t used to be a big deal. That’s what you did during the summer.”
He said the camps offer the chance to interact with others and build friendships “and they do it here in a very positive setting.”
Winters said Kathy Mendez, who serves as the Army’s Before and After School director, is also the day camp director.
“It is a real gift to work with kids, and the folks we have here are completely dedicated to them,” he said.
“We pride ourselves on our Christian ethics. It’s the whole reason we do what we do,” Winters said. “We are motivated by the love of God. Of course, there is no requirement that you agree with our motivation. What we do is done without discrimination in any way.”
The Salvation Army is a licensed day care facility and “we have the same standards every day care has to maintain,” Winters said, adding, “It’s a safe environment and a healthy environment for the kids.”
Winters said there does not have to be an economic need for children to be accepted into the camp and the children can attend during any or all of the weeks being offered.
“It gives some flexibility to families,” he said.
The cost for the day camp is $95 per week, but there is financial assistance available through the Pasco-Hernando Early Learning Coalition.
Registrations are being taken now and will continue through the run of the camps with applicants accepted as space is available.
The Salvation Army can be reached at 727-484-6707 or 727-815-8539.