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On July 15, Dickinson announced that the fall 2020 semester will be remote. Campus is closed to visitors who do not have an approved appointment. Face coverings must be worn at all times.

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Dickinson, Community Action Network Help Local Day Camp Cope With COVID-19 Challenges

Summer Program for Youth Campers and staff practice proper social distancing during morning session.

Summer Program for Youth Campers and staff practice proper social distancing during morning session.

Dickinson helps camp provide academic enrichment and childcare for more than 70 local first- through third-graders

by Matt Getty

Dickinson College and the Community Action Network (CAN) recently helped a local summer day camp overcome the challenges of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic to provide academic enrichment and childcare for more than 70 local first- through third-graders. Facing an increased need for cleaning supplies due to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines, the eight-week Summer Program for Youth (SPY) brokered a collaborative purchasing agreement through the network, which made the supplies much more affordable and enabled the free camp to open.

“Purchasing these items independently would have been overwhelming,” said CAN member and SPY Executive Director Jeanna Som, who notes that the day camp’s need for cleaning supplies increased by over 150% due to COVID-19. “In addition to all of the other expenses of safely running a summer program and adhering to the CDC guidelines, this would have made it impossible for a free program like SPY to operate.”

Founded by Dickinson President Margee Ensign roughly two years ago, CAN is a group of Carlisle-area business, nonprofit and local government leaders who met monthly in Ensign’s home to discuss and develop projects and initiatives to benefit the community. When COVID-19 began to spread this spring, the group added representatives from UPMC Pinnacle and Sadler Health Center and began meeting weekly virtually to discuss challenges related to the pandemic.

“The members of CAN recognized the inability of SPY to operate as a critical issue because of the population we serve,” explained Som. “They also recognized the importance of all youth summer programs, as care for our children is an essential part of ‘opening’ our community back up, and they took action.”

Jeff Gibelious, pastor at Carlisle’s Second Presbyterian Church, took the lead among the network’s members, launching a Summer Youth Care Task Force to determine how community members could collaborate and pool resources to support local child-care resources like SPY this summer. In addition to the purchasing agreement, SPY received donations of cloth masks for participants and staff. Together, the donations and the purchasing agreement enabled SPY to provide arts and writing programming, library visits and other activities as well as several daily meals for campers this summer.

“SPY is extremely grateful for the generosity and compassion of Dickinson and members of our community,” said Som. “The children in our community need summer programming more than ever this summer, and the community has really rallied to make sure this happens for them.”

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Published July 10, 2020