By Logan Schiciano
Although the pandemic quashed many traditional summer camp plans, The Salvation Army’s Greater New York Division remains committed to supporting families in need.
Through its Camp in a Box program, over 1,000 boxes were filled with arts and crafts, toys, camp apparel, snacks and other “silly things” that are being delivered to children from seven to 12 years old across the New York metropolitan area by summer’s end, said Capt. Antonio Rosamilia, who is spearheading the operation. Camp in a Box, in its fourth of six weeks, includes daily Zoom activity sessions led by camp counselors.
There are 71 children from Westchester who have been signed up for Camp in a Box, most for multiple sessions, said Maj. Jenny Alarcon, core officer at The Salvation Army in White Plains. She is grateful that they can connect with one another for an hour each day – whether it be sharing their favorite ice cream flavor or having a dance party.
“I’ve seen how the pandemic has affected my own kids emotionally. On top of that, we work very closely with families throughout the year; the kids who attend The Salvation Army are like family,” she said. “It’s really about providing something for them so that they’re not just glued to the internet.”
White Plains resident Kristin Rivero, whose daughter participated in the program last week, expressed a similar sentiment.
“At home it’s just me and her,” Rivero said. “For my daughter to have the opportunity to see other kids and interact with them – something she hasn’t had since March – was really important.”
The Salvation Army typically runs Camp Star Lake in Bloomingdale, N.J. but canceled this summer due to coronavirus concerns. Nevertheless, Rosamilia is proud of the alternate offering.
“It was the best choice we could’ve made for this summer,” he said. “We’ve made it very personal for them. We let them know that they’re not forgotten, and we want the best for them.”
Gabriela Ochoa, 20, one of the program’s counselors, said devotions are incorporated into each session and that one of her jobs is to help the children understand their meaning.
“I’ve really enjoyed getting to know the campers and it’s been great to see them grow and get closer to Christ,” Ochoa said. “One of my campers actually started crying because she had so much fun and didn’t want camp to end.”
Rosamilia explained that every Monday since mid-June members of The Salvation Army corps and roughly 30 volunteers from New York Cares have gathered at the organization’s East Harlem facility to package the boxes, which are then shipped to Salvation Army locations throughout the metropolitan area including those in Westchester: White Plains, New Rochelle, Tarrytown, Port Chester and Yonkers.
Rivero is appreciative of all the work that went into Camp in a Box – from the leadership, to the volunteers, to the counselors.
“Although it’s called Camp in a Box, it’s thinking outside the box. I just want to thank them for thinking of the children and investing their time into this,” Rivero said. “In spite of all the hard times we’ve been going through, it was something that made us smile.”