Children are enjoying summer camp without leaving the city thanks to a grant the Los Banos Salvation Army recently received from its national headquarters.
"We applied for a $10,000 grant for a summer program, but they liked us so much they gave us $20,000," said Sandy Lemas, who wrote the grant application.
Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., children 5 to 18 play games, enjoy arts and crafts and learn computer skills.
Lemas said the free program, which started last week, runs through Aug. 31. She said parents can sign their children up during the first hour of the camp any day throughout the summer.
Bonnie Roberts, envoy for Los Banos' Salvation Army, said the camp is a good way for children from economically disadvantaged homes to experience this type activity.
"Being here, they see another side of life that some of them would not see," Roberts said.
Lemas said athletic activities like basketball and volleyball are available at camp. As the weather gets hotter, the camp will have frequent days featuring water slides.
Lemas said she plans to get the camp's teenagers involved in community service projects such as learning home building skills from Habitat Westside.
"We want to connect kids with activities in the community. We're hoping to do a lot of stuff with the fireworks ceremonies coming up," Lemas said.
Each day at camp begins with prayer. Afterward children break into separate groups for activities. Last week, the children made a journal they will write all summer.
"Our goal is to have an average of 20 kids a day, last week we had 37 so we've already exceeded it," Lemas said.
The Salvation Army's computer lab will keep the children's minds sharp while they're away from school, camp organizers said.
"We're going to give tutorials, because the schools are telling us a lot of these kids are struggling in reading and math," Lemas said.
The Salvation Army is hopeful that the camp can be extended past summer. Lemas said she believes the program will improve the children's lives.
"A program like this is going to (make them) well-rounded. If they don't have positive role models, they don't have arts and crafts, they aren't exposed to music. When they become adults they are shortchanged," Lemas said. "We want to empower kids so they know the community is here for them."