From the World of Parks and Rec By Doug Comer
Area schools will wrap up the year in another week or two and that means that the kids will finally get that summer break that they so well deserve.
Staying up a little later and sleeping in a little longer is on the agenda, as well as some online video games with buddies to pass the time away. But, what to do with younger kids that have families with both parents working?
Harrison County Parks and Recreation has the solution. Beginning June 19th, the Summer Parks Program kicks off its 2017 season. Being a staple in the community for close to 40 years, parents have utilized the program as a means to help two-income or single-parent families with a place to send their kids during the day. While some see this as an inexpensive sitting service, we see it as an opportunity to make the summer vacation an enjoyable experience for the kids that participate.
“Our parks program benefits so many kids throughout Harrison County as we provide a fun, safe atmosphere where children can stay connected with friends or even meet new ones while at one of our sites,” said Mike Book, Director of the Parks and Recreation Department. “We have had upwards of 600 kids spread among our sites participate in the program and we try to ensure that the six week program is filled with recreational and enrichment activities that makes their experience worthwhile.”
Along with the parks program, Book is the county representative for Energy Express, a summer reading and meal program that is designated for children wanting to continue or improve their reading levels while being in an environment where kids not only read, but do many activities including arts and crafts, as well as the performing arts. Book’s pride in the program shows in his smile when discussing the program.
“We have been behind this for over 20 years and we wished that all schools would have a program like Energy Express. Fortunately, we have added two more sites in the area as Lumberport and Lost Creek elementary schools stepped up and want to contribute to the program. And our parks program, which complements as a site parallel to the EE sites, will host at those schools as well.”
For those who are unaware of our program sites, here is a listing of where you can find them. Centrally, we have North View Park, Nutter Fort Elementary (behind the school), Summit Park Recreation Complex as well as Wilsonburg Elementary. Circling Harrison County we offer the program at the Shinnston City Park, West Milford Community Building, the Salem City Park and the newly added sites at Lost Creek and Lumberport Elementary.
“We have been working hard on getting the word out on our new areas and still promote the sites we already have in place. We send literature to every kid between the ages of 6 through 12 years of age telling the parents about the free program that we offer. And, through the help of the Board of Education, we provide a lunch as well as a snack later in the day for the kids. All food delivered is consistent with the lunches served during the school year, which is a plus as nutrition is a topic that has taken great importance,” said Book.
Staffing has been important to our program as well. We have had a good percent of staff retuning from previous years and that is a key advantage in so many ways. The training sessions prior to the beginning of the program is more of a refresher and not an all-day affair and the relationships that have been bridged between the kids and staff will ensure parents of their child’s safety.
In summary, the 6-week program, which runs Monday through Friday, begins on Monday, June 19th at 7:30 am and ends on Friday, July 28th. The program will be closed on July 4th to celebrate the holiday and the hours of operation will be 7:30 am till 5:00 pm. Again, the event is free of charge and open to anyone between the ages of six through 12 years of age. For more information, please contact the Parks and Recreation department.