“Everyone has the power for greatness – not for fame, but greatness, because greatness is determined by service.” ~ Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Every summer, Appel Farm Arts & Music Center welcomes lots of creative young individuals, and we strive to help them grow into their best selves. We believe that our campers should learn to value the concept of community and how to be a productive citizen, so it was only natural to invite alumni and friends to meet up with us at National Days of Service in the Philadelphia area and New York City. We also provide programs for young people in local communities with Families to College, Pathways, and Arts Lab, so we wanted to be sure we stayed close to home as well.
Working with a long-time camp family and the Havertown-Area Community Action Network, our team members, Cara and Amy, went to the Haverford Township Free Library and had a wonderful opportunity to ignite creativity while instilling empathy. The main service project was packing donated school supplies in partnership with The Ray of Hope Project, a nonprofit dedicated to building cleaner, safer, and healthier urban neighborhoods. Other activities included a music circle, storytime, and art projects, while adults and older teens were learning more about the racial history of Delaware County. Cara and Amy got crafty to create inspirational cards, featuring some of Dr. King’s most notable quotes, that will be sent with English and Spanish messaging to children and families currently detained at the Berks Family Residential Center.
Tracy and Natasha trekked to NYC to an event hosted by Repair the World, an organization founded in 2009 to make meaningful service a defining element of American Jewish life. At Congregation B’nai Jeshurun and in partnership with the NYC Muslim-Jewish Solidarity Committee, the Appel Farm team created toiletry gift sets for participants of the Judith Bernstein Lunch Program, an intergenerational volunteer program that serves lunch every day to guests who may need a little extra food or companionship. The team also discovered more about the specific challenges that face the most vulnerable populations in the city, and learned a lesson in empathy with PlaySpent, a simulator that challenges you to end the month with a positive bank balance while making large life decisions on a really tight budget.
In support of the M25/Code Blue Initiative, the EmpowerCorps Bridgeton members, along with a few of the students from Appel Farm’s Families to College* program, prepared food at Bethany Grace Church in Bridgeton. This project was special, as many of the program participants are passionate about the local homeless initiative. The volunteers provided something that many of those who frequent the warming station wouldn’t normally have the chance to indulge in; a hot, hearty breakfast of sausage gravy, biscuits, sausage links, scrambled eggs, toast, & orange juice. What a fantastic day of service it was for mentors and students to serve side-by-side.
The Appel Farm team learned so much, had amazing experiences, and connected with friends, alumni, and new partners … all while growing as individuals and as engaged citizens.
We plan to continue this tradition next year and we hope you will join us in celebration of Martin Luther King and the National Day of Service!
*Appel Farm Arts & Music Center, United Advocacy Group, City of Bridgeton, and Cumberland County College are the four community partners in the Families to College initiative that cultivates family bonds and improves academic and employment success through a comprehensive whole-family mentoring program.