KANNAPOLIS— Trips to the park, visits from the fire department and staying up on academics with the help of local teachers are just small parts of Bethel Enrichment Center’s summer camp experience.

The camp, which began just a few days after school got out for the summer, is housed at Bethel Baptist Church in Kannapolis and offers parents an affordable and safe atmosphere for their children all the way through August.

Established about eight years ago, Camp Director Lois Hunter said it continues to grow through its advertising at local schools and word of mouth. She credits the affordability along with all of the activities and field trips for the camp’s growing popularity. This summer, there were 104 children on the camp’s roster ranging in ages from 5 to 13.

“Our camp is wonderful. It’s not just sitting here all day long and doing nothing, they aren’t just watching TV,” Hunter said. “A lot of kids don’t want to be at camp, but our kids want to be here because we offer so much to them.”

According to its website, the Bethel Enrichment Center features stimulating, responsive and sensitive environment to help children feel valued. The camp started when members of the church saw a need in the community, according to founding member Angela Stanback.

“A whole lot of kids would not have anywhere to go this summer with parents working and trying to find somebody to keep their child while they’re working,” Stanback said. “This gives them a safe environment, a good home feeling and a place to come and have fun.”

About 10 years ago the church started a Summer Food Program that provides free meals to people in the community during the summer months, and volunteers began to notice that children were coming to eat and then staying around at the feeding site for hours.

“We had over 100 kids just running around and playing. That spurred the idea that ‘You know what, we need to have a summer camp,’” Gerald Lundy, CEO of Bethel Enrichment Center, said. “From there we started the camp and it has grown. We have a lot of kids and we offer a lot of things. It continues to grow and hopefully it’ll continue to be one of the staples in the community.”

So far this summer campers have been on a field trip almost every day, had a visit from Hugo the Hornet’s Book Bus, interacted with officers from the Kannapolis Police Department and went through the Kannapolis Fire Department’s fire safety house.

Staff for the camp include teachers from Cabarrus County and Kannapolis City Schools as well as high school and college students that are working on volunteer hours.

One of those volunteers is Russell Evans, a rising junior at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. He began working at the camp when many years ago and keeps coming back because he loves his young campers.

“A few of them were in the baby group when I started coming and I got to see them grow. I got attached and they got attached, so when parents come and talk to me and they say ‘Hey, they talk about you at home.’ It makes me feel special,” Evans said. “I come back for them.”

Evans said the camp is a good thing for the Kannapolis community and it gives the young students a place to make new friends. Working with the children also gives him a chance to make an impact in their lives.

“It’s just something that I’ve been good at (working with children). I like to teach them how to be a good citizen, to be kind to others, treat people how you want to be treated; so I feel like if I can play a role in impacting one kid’s life then they can impact somebody else’s life and then it will just go on from there and be like a domino effect,” he said.

Hunter said camp staff tries to take everything to the next level, and right now they are doing so without any grants. Right now, the center operates on money from parents of the campers but Hunter said it is always open to donations. She said since there are so many campers, the organization needs a bus or van for transportation on field trip days.

“We have a large amount of kids and have to sometimes double up and do transportation. It would be nice if someone would partner up with us to donate or meet us halfway with something like that,” she said. “There’s always somebody in the community that’s willing to help somebody in need.”

For more information or to donate to Bethel Enrichment Center visit http://bbc-ministries.org/bethel-enrichment-center/.

Summer Food Program

The Summer Food Program started in 2007 through the church, but transitioned to Bethel Enrichment Center after the community center was opened in 2010.

The program runs from June 18- Aug. 17 each year.

Breakfast is served from 8-9 a.m. and lunch is served from noon- 1 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Sites where food is offered:

Bethel Enrichment Center- 2474 Dale Earnhardt Boulevard in Kannapolis

Marvin Caldwell Park- 362 Georgia St. SW in Concord

Hartsell Recreation Center- 60 Hartsell School Rd. SW in Concord

Les Myers Park- 338 Lawndale Ave. SE in Concord

University Park Apartments- 2137 University Dr. in Kannapolis

Frank Liske Park (only lunch)- 4001 Stough Rd. in Concord

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