Pastor Tom Berlin sat down to lunch with Hutchison Elementary School Principal Judy Baldwin one day early in 2011. Just down the street in Herndon, the school educates children from diverse backgrounds, many from homes with both parents working several jobs. Tom asked her, “What keeps you up at night?” Her response was “the summer.” She worried that many of her students didn’t have access to proper nutrition, adequate adult supervision or a way to maintain their learning over the summer months. By the end of their meeting, the idea for Camp Hutchison was hatched.
Floris UMC members Susie Swann and Virginia Turner took on the task of turning Principal Baldwin’s dream into reality. By May the two were busy working out the logistics of the camp. They collaborated with teachers on a curriculum, coordinated volunteers, planned fun activities and worked out how meals would operate. Susie, who has a professional background in project management, said, “We were in uncharted territory, there was no book to go by, we had ideas and were just tying to make a plan for them to happen.”
By July 2011, Camp Hutchison was open. Around 65 rising first through third graders entered the doors eager to learn and have fun. For four weeks, they were given math and English support, attended music, art and drama activities and were fed a nutritious breakfast and lunch. The first year was a huge success. Susie recalls it was “exhilarating to see problems pop up and be able to solve them and at the end of the day to see the kids smiling faces as they got on the bus to go home.”
Oakton High School senior Parker Aylor, who has volunteered since he was a freshman, says, “The kids want to learn. They want to be there. When you see them not understanding something in math, then you see the huge smile on their face when they finally get it, it just makes me happy.” Virginia Tech student Mary Frances Roll recalls her experiences with the kids. “It’s really great to see how they grow as individuals over time. It’s neat to see how a loving environment can affect a child. By the end of the summer you can see how some of the older kids were becoming leaders and beginning to feel more confident.” She adds, “I consider it like going on a mission trip, except it’s in your backyard. You can really see the work God is doing.”
Director of Serve Ministries, Jake McGlothin, says it takes about 100 volunteers to make Camp Hutchison a success each year. Jake welcomes volunteers from all backgrounds, not only education. He says a willingness to serve is the only requirement. Jake believes volunteering for Camp Hutchison is “a tangible way for Floris UMC members to build community and build relationships. And it is a ton of fun.” Susie adds, “It’s such a rewarding experience, not something you necessarily need to have training for. The kids are so much fun and so appreciative of whatever you are doing.”
For those interested in volunteering this year, Camp Hutchison will be held from July 13 through July 31 from 12:30-4:30 p.m. Floris UMC is looking for volunteers from all backgrounds and all ages. Volunteers fourteen or younger need to serve with a parent. Opportunities include serving snacks, helping with enrichment activities, assisting teachers and acting as a camp counselor with a group of students. Those interested please contact Jake McGlothin at email@example.com.