Gas pains nearly cancel Arc/Rowan summer camp

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

By Steve Huffman
The skyrocketing cost of fuel is hurting everyone, and it almost put a halt to a summer day camp for handicapped children sponsored by The Arc/Rowan.
But thanks to a number of local charities, that wasn’t necessary.
Jane Jackman, The Arc’s executive director, said the summer camp operates four buses that transport many of its 120 participants. The camp operates out of three locations.
“Most rely on us for transportation,” Jackman said of campers.
The camp lasts seven weeks and Jackman said because of the soaring price of diesel fuel, it went $15,000 in the hole.
“It wasn’t anybody’s fault,” Jackman said. “It’s just a sign of the times.”
She said the camp’s budget is completed almost a year in advance and noted that last summer, few would have imagined the price of diesel fuel would today be nearing $5 a gallon.
Camp organizers did their work to make the best of a bad situation, Jackman said, consolidating bus routes where possible and then going about securing additional funds.
Food Lion’s Charitable Foundation donated $7,000, while another $2,000 came from the Rowan-Salisbury School System’s Exceptional Children’s program.
But that still left the camp about $6,100 short. Jackman went to Bob Lippard, executive director of the Rowan County United Way, and Jackie Harris, the United Way’s campaign director, to tell them the bad news, warning that the camp’s duration may have to be cut by a couple of weeks.
Instead, Lippard and Harris suggested that funds might be available from the United Way’s Community Chest Fund, which is earmarked to aid in the event of a community crisis.
The money was eventually appropriated to the camp, which is now able to remain open its entire seven weeks.
The camp opened June 23.
Jackman said the camp’s operation is crucial to many parents who depend on it for a place to keep their children while they work.
She said the camp is also necessary for the well-being of many handicapped children who flourish when there is regimentation in their lives, but suffer when things are thrown into disarray.
“For many autistic children, a consistent program is important,” Jackman said.
Steve Fisher, chairman of the Community Chest Fund committee for the United Way, said the need for money for the camp is a classic example of why the fund exists.
“It’s such a great thing for the children and it’s wonderful for the parents,” he said of the camp.
Fisher said funding shortfalls such as Jackman described are those for which the Community Chest exists.
“These are the kind of things you can’t plan for,” Fisher said. “You can’t plan for the price of gas to double in a year. It’s unacceptable that because of that, kids can’t go to summer camp.”
He noted that money from the Community Chest Fund has been used for a number of other recent worthwhile projects รณ a security door for the battered women’s shelter and hepatitis shots for members of the Rowan Rescue Squad, included.
Fisher said Community Chest funds have also gone to pay for fuel for a new generator at the Hurley Family YMCA.
“There are plenty of emergency needs,” he said.
Officials with the United Way said making an honorarium to the Community Chest Fund is a great way to pay tribute to a loved one. Memorials in honor of a deceased family member may also be directed to the Community Chest fund.
“One hundred percent of the dollars directed to the Community Chest Fund go to the community,” Fisher said.