Nonprofit groups, churches offer local camp experiences for area youth

By Susanna P. Barton

Many local churches, nonprofit organizations and community groups are planning summer workshops as an outreach to neighborhood families. With costs that are often far less than for-profit operations, these venues provide fun resources for children in a setting close to home.

For the second consecutive summer, Girls Inc. of Jacksonville is branching into the Riverside area to offer programming for local girls. The nonprofit organization will host “Reaching for the stars and learning about them too!” a three-session summer experience based at Riverside Baptist Church at the corner of Park and King streets.

The summer camp offering is a partnership with NASA and the Kennedy Space Center, according to Girls Inc. officials.

The first session is June 25 through July 6, and focuses on the type of adjustments astronauts have to make while in space — including their physical training requirements. The girls also will explore the question of whether life exists on other planets and what is necessary for survival. Field trips during this session are to a yoga studio and MOSH. The second session is July 9-20 and focuses on survival and force, motion and gravity. Girls will take a field trip to the movies and Pump it Up. During the third session, July 23 through Aug. 3, girls will study matter and gravity, as well as plants. Field trips will be to the beach and the Tree Hill Nature Center.

Riverside Avenue Christian Church offers summer camp opportunities through its not-for-profit Arts Center. Classes are held at Riverside Avenue Christian Church on Riverside Avenue. This summer, the center is hosting three weeks of summer arts camp July 23 through Aug. 10. Campers who have completed PreK-4 through fifth grade, can experience visual art, music and other specialty classes. The camp is daily from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and costs $130 per week.

For low-cost, big fun — sometimes free — summer fun, be sure to check out the many churches in the neighborhood for their vacation Bible school schedules. With a goal of outreach to area families, church organizers spend many hours preparing a week’s worth of Bible-centered activities. St. Mark’s Episcopal Church will host its activities from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. July 9-13 for potty-trained three-year-olds through rising fourth-graders at a cost of $30 per child. A special camp for fourth-graders through sixth-graders will be that same week from noon to 3 p.m. at a cost of $40 per child. Ortega Methodist is hosting “Wild West at Ortega Art Camp” for rising first through ninth-graders June 11-15 and June 18-22 from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. The camp costs $180 for both sessions or $100 for a one-week session and tuition includes materials.

In San Marco and San Jose, a long list of VBS opportunities is open to local youngsters. Southside United Methodist Church, for example, will hold its VBS June 25-28. That’s the same week South Jacksonville Presbyterian Church and Lakewood United Methodist Church will host their VBS programs. All Saints Episcopal Church’s VBS “Babylon,” begins June 18 and ends June 22.

San Marco also is home to another volunteer-based organization that provides summer fun for local children. Theatre Jacksonville has been hosting Camp Theatre Jacksonville for more than 20 years and is setting the stage for its summer 2012 offerings. Campers will spend the first two weeks of the first camp session and the first three weeks of the second camp at the nearby Trotter Activities Center at Southside Baptist Church. The traditional summer camp begins July 16 and an alternative three-week concentrated camp will be staged in June. The final product is a kids’ production of A Year With Frog and Toad. Cost per session is $500 and camp hours are 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. with extended day options available until 5:30 p.m.

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