Affordable summer programs start in Mad River Valley
By Jennie Mull, contributing writer
As the kids come home for the summer and vaccinations bring workers back to their jobs, summer programs around the Mad River Valley are underway.
Child care programs from churches to children’s centers have camps, education and mental health programs available.
Programs that run from June to August are now accepting applicants.
“There aren’t enough day care centers all year round and certainly not enough summer day care centers when school is out,” said Rebecca Baruzzi, program manager at the Mad River Valley Community Fund.
The Waitsfield United Church of Christ Vacation Bible School offers a free program July 26-30 from 9 am to 11:30 am The program is led by Jeneve Joslin, Director of the Christian Education Program in Burlington. The theme of the camp is “Our great neighborhood”.
Each day focuses on a country and children make crafts, recipes, play games and learn about a culture through story books.
“The goal is to somehow broaden our awareness of what our neighborhood is and what it means to love other people,” Joslin said.
Funded by the Bottle and Can Program where community members donate recyclable bottles and cans, the camp has approximately five open spaces.
“I have young children and I was watching the camps, and they’re all on the waiting list. And so, I thought you know, I think we have to offer a camp because there is just nothing available and they are all quite expensive, ”Joslin said.
The Waitsfield Children’s Center provides education for infants, toddlers and preschoolers. They accept subsidized funding for eligible families, according to their website. Jenny Carlson, the executive director, said they offer summer services.
Sugarbush Resort offers several summer programming options, including an adventure camp for ages 7 to 12, mini-campers for ages 4 to 6, mountain bike camps for ages 7 to 12, and junior golf. camp for 6 to 17 year olds. Visit www.sugarbush.com for more information.
Eddie Merma’s Carving School in Fayston has a variety of options this summer, including a Warren Fourth of July parade float camp, plastic bottle boats and a Fort Building. These sessions are all currently full with waiting lists. Visit www.sculptureschoolvt.com for details.
There is a Vermont grant application that eligible families can use for child care organizations that accept them, and the Mad River Valley Community Fund offers scholarships as needed, according to Baruzzi.
Hannah’s House, a Waitsfield nonprofit, promotes mental health and offers scholarships for children’s programs.
“Hannah’s House provided funds for youth to participate in various local enrichment programs as part of our Youth Resilience Project,” wrote Chrissy Rivers, Executive Director. They offer financial support all year round.
To locate summer programs in Washington County, residents of Vermont can use the Summer program card. Through the American Rescue Package, Vermont “will use $ 71 million to expand programs for Vermont students, tripling funding over the next three years,” according to an article in the Burlington Free Press.
The barriers to affordable summer camps in The Valley aren’t just cost; Retaining child care workers due to the shortage of affordable housing is also a challenge.
“People just can’t get paid enough to live in The Valley. Because it comes down to housing, for sure, ”said Baruzzi.
The lack of affordable housing for daycare educators means that fewer camps are offered. Without child care, guardians find it difficult to work and care for children.
“Lack of child care means inconsistent working hours and makes it harder to bring in money, it’s true, it’s harder to stay here and definitely harder to move on,” said Baruzzi.
Some 19.84% of students at Harwood Union High School and 25% of students at Warren Elementary School received free or discounted meals in 2019-2020.
“It would be great to see the schools work together a bit more to figure out how to deliver summer camps. Because there are these big empty spaces, you know, that are not in use during the summer, with all the necessary amenities, ”said Baruzzi.
Editor’s Note: This article was written by Jennie Mull, a student at the University of Vermont and reporter for the Community News Service, a student partnership with local community newspapers.