WARWICK –The Boys & Girls Clubs of Warwick provided youths relief from the week’s extreme heat Tuesday in the organization’s air-conditioned Oakland Beach facility, where there’s also respite from hunger and idle summer days, thanks to RI Department of Education and Champlin Foundation funds, along with a $25k grant for Warwick family scholarships.
Mayor Scott Avedisian visited to help serve lunch to the kids, many of whom attend the BGCW’s summer camp for $125 per week, some with the help of the city’s grant and others through camperships funded by a Champlin Foundation grant, said BGCW Associate Executive Director Karin Kavanagh.
The lunches are provided by a grant from the RI Department of Education, part of the $250,000 budgeted for Boys and Girls Clubs of Rhode Island in 2016. Avedisian helped BGCW executive director Lara D’Antuono hand out the day’s lunches, provided by Aramark Food Services: Ham and cheese sandwiches or chicken salad.
“There’s a variety every day, including fresh fruit,” said Christine Barnes, Aramark Assistant Food Services director of the nutritious offerings. “We try to mix it up.”
Pierce Leonard, 6, enjoyed his luminary-served lunch: Chicken salad, served on a bed of lettuce and sliced tomato, with TruMoo chocolate milk. “I love it,” Pierce said. The young man briefly considered whether to put yellow mustard on his pear, but decided to save it for later.
Pierce sat with Kellan Barnes, 6, eating a “Lunchable” pack from home. In the next room, Ally Yabet, 10, attending camp for her second year, sat with friends Myah Cole, 12 and Morgan Cole, 11, both of whom have attended the camp for six years, eating home-made lunches. The lunches are funded by the RI Department of Education.
“It’s free to every child,” said BGCW associate executive director Karin Kavanagh, adding that children and parents do not have to fill out financial need forms for the meal. “It reduces that stigma,” she said.
At school, sometimes kids know who’s receiving free or reduced lunches. Applications for the camp program, which allows working parents to have safe, structured fun activities for their kids while they work, start in April.
The Boys & Girls Clubs in Warwick have a rich history in the city. Originally located in the former Warwick Armory (now the Warwick Museum) in Apponaug, it served only boys at the time and was known as the Warwick Boys Club. The Clubs, plural — Oakland Beach and Norwood branches – now serve up activities year-round for about 1,400 Warwick young people, 6 to 18. During the summer, it is the popular summer camp that keeps Warwick’s six- to 13-year olds busy, with activities at the Masonic Youth Center grounds in Buttonwoods.
The camp is so popular, it’s full to capacity at 200 kids, and has a waiting list for the remaining four weeks of camp. “Camp is full – I believe this is the biggest enrollment we’ve ever had,” said Eleanor Acton, development director for BGCW.
Avedisian also took a tour of the club’s greenhouse and garden, where vegetables cared for by members of West Bay Residential are harvested. The greenhouse was added during the Oakland Beach clubhouse remodeling in 2004; the building also includes an enlarged education center, a full size gym and a community policing station.
“Sometimes the police will come in and shoot hoops with the kids,” said Kavanagh. “Fun in the Sun” was a theme for the first-ever summer camp t-shirt design contest held before the start of camp this year. The winner, Zoe, a 10-year old member, drew a big sun with a big smile, wearing sunglasses. But if the heat wave continues, the summer campers will continue activities inside the air-conditioned clubhouse again.
For more information about BGCW programs, which include before and after-school care, visit their web site.