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Children in Dallas are gearing up for a very unique and fulfilling summer camp opportunity at Presbyterian Village North (PVN). The senior living community created Camp PVN so residents and children in 4th through 7th grades could embark on an amazing, intergenerational journey of fellowship. The summer camp aims to foster spiritual fellowship through volunteer work and opportunities to learn and explore, as well as through daily devotionals and Bible study. Camp PVN will take place at the senior living community and run from July 27th to July 31st from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. each day. PVN has partnered with the directors of children’s ministries from Preston Hollow Presbyterian Church and North Park Presbyterian Church to make this camp possible. The camp, now in its sixth year, incorporates outreach projects, “gift hours,” craft projects and time for mixing and mingling. Elena Jeffus signed up her son Simon for Camp PVN for the first time last year, and he is eager to return.

“It’s fun because you get to spend all day at the campus doing interesting activities with other children and the residents,” said Simon. “Last year, I really enjoyed spending time with the residents and learning new things from them. During lunch they invited us to their table, asked us what we like to do, and we all got to know each other. They are also involved with camp activities. At the last camp, I enjoyed learning about George Washington from Dr. Baker, a resident who taught history at college campuses. He and his wife dressed up in regalia from the time period of the Revolutionary War. They explained the history of our flag and shared stories of the war. Another resident lived in Austria for much of her life, so she taught us about their culture, dressed in standard Austrian clothing and fed us cookies that are popular in Austria.”

Simon is a student at Hamilton Park Pacesetter Magnet School and will attend the camp with friends from school and his church. All agree that the food is delicious and that lunchtime with the residents is one of their favorite parts. He is looking forward to helping with a car wash the kids are putting on for the residents. The car wash is free, but residents are encouraged to donate canned food items that will be given to The New Mt. Zion Baptist Church food pantry. He also hopes to go golfing again this year, as he enjoyed practicing with experienced players who could show him a thing or two.

“I found out about Camp PVN through our church, and as soon as Simon was old enough I signed him up because I felt this would be a positive experience for him,” said Elena. “I was so impressed by the camp that I signed up to volunteer and ended up finding out about a part-time job at PVN. I am a part of the life enrichment team and spend time getting to know residents on a personal level so we can plan activities of interest for them. I played a part in the planning for this year’s Camp PVN and came up with the idea of showing an intergenerational film, “The Wizard of Oz,” during which we will serve themed goody bags.”

When Elena found out about Camp PVN, she thought it was an excellent idea, as she had done volunteer work with an Alzheimer’s respite care program through her church, doing arts and crafts with high-functioning seniors who were living with Alzheimer’s. She also thought the experience would be good for Simon because she feels children have a lot to learn from and about older adults. She thought the camp was well done and loved that they started off with a special orientation. At that time, they showed the kids what it is like to age and provided guidance on how to best engage with seniors, such as speaking articulately, being patient and making eye contact. She feels fortunate to now work for the senior living community and assist with the planning of the camp’s activities.

“Brent Ashby, associate minister of spiritual life for PVN, and I work closely with the life enrichment department and the children’s ministers of the participating churches to put on this spiritual camp,” said Carolyn Mitchell minister of spiritual life for PVN. “This is my first year to help put on the camp, and I am extremely excited. The purpose of the camp is to be reflective and create an environment in which all generations come together for fellowship and outreach projects that positively impact the community.”

Outreach projects include a canned food collection for a local church’s food bank and a presentation by The Stewpot Ministry on feeding the homeless. Leaders of the program believe it is important to instill positive, spiritual lessons and values through intergenerational activities. In addition to outreach projects and the special screening of “The Wizard of Oz,” the camp will include a scavenger hunt and a tea party. Children will also have the opportunity to partake in “gift hours,” where children will meet with residents one-on-one to learn about the residents’ gifts, talents or hobbies. The weeklong camp will conclude with a talent show demonstrating the varied talents of the camp participants.

“I like seeing the seniors and children get to know each other over lunch,” said Ashby. “It is heartwarming to see their expressions and the joy they get from sharing that time together. It makes me laugh when the kids get picked up and I hear them tell their parents they want to come live here someday or that they need to move grandma and grandpa in right away. I also enjoy hearing about how much the kids like the food, and I’m touched when I hear them tell their parents that this is the best camp they have been to all summer. We have incorporated devotionals and Bible studies to help solidify the spiritual connection between fellowship and volunteer work in an intergenerational setting. Our hope is that through this charity work, the generations of children and seniors will find joy in giving back together and learn from each other.”

“In the future, I’d like to take a group of the older kids to the Vogel Alcove so they can help sort clothes and toys for families or take them to CPS to help stuff backpacks for kids who have been removed from their homes,” said Mitchell. “I think this will help demonstrate how many families go without and how basic the items are that they need. When they experience eye-opening volunteer work such as this, you can see how dumbfounded they are because they thought every family was just like theirs. It’s these moments that serve as a reminder to me to always count my blessings. These camps are a time of reflection for me as well.”

“The residents are always impressed by the maturity of the children,” said Ron Kelly, executive director of Presbyterian Village North. “They have remarked on how excellent their manners are, how much they enjoy sharing meals with the kids and learning about what kids like these days, as well as the youthful energy that abounds in whatever the kids do. Our sister community, Grace Presbyterian Village, started a similar camp in 2009, and our team decided that they wanted to host a similar camp to bring the generations together. This camp has been a blessing to our residents, our team and the participating children and their families, as well as the charity groups we seek to serve.”