Summer fun is under way at two local church camps. Camp directors say it's a great place for working parents to send their children — with no worries.
"Our camp provides a safe, positive environment for children of all ages," said Drew Taylor, director of recreation and outreach at Faith Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Brooksville.
The all-volunteer staff consists of high school students who regularly attend youth group and go on church mission trips, as well as adults who have received background checks.
"The volunteers are with the children all day and participate in many of the games and activities as well," Taylor said. "We tell all campers that the expectation is that they remain within sight at all times."
Taylor said that all supervised activities are on the lawn area of the church or in the Family Life Center.
At First United Methodist of Spring Hill, safety is important to staffers, said director of children and education Pat Wolfarth.
"We have 10 paid staff that are there all the time, and I have about four volunteers," she said.
There is always a person at the front desk, and the doors are kept locked.
"We really protect our children," she said. "Staff members are thoroughly checked and background checked by the Sheriff's Department. Safety of the children is major."
The children can feel secure but also cared for, Wolfarth said.
"All of the staff love children, and the children feel that love," she said.
Taylor said his counselors try to bond with their campers.
"The most unique thing about our camp is the relationships that form between the counselors and the campers," he said. "The counselors are strongly encouraged to not hang out with their friend, but instead get to know the children, with the goal to form a relationship with each child as an opportunity to tell them about how much God loves them."
Spiritual training is a part of each camp.
"Our savior, Jesus Christ, is the focal point of our camp," Taylor said. "Being on church grounds, we immediately stress the expectations that we are going to act differently than the world."
Children are rewarded for good behavior, he said.
"We reward behavior that emulates the fruits of the spirit, such as love, patience and self-control," Taylor said. "In our daily schedule, we pray in the morning and at meals, I teach a daily Bible class, and we have a guest speaker come in each day to do a devotional."
There is also a daily Bible verse that all campers are encouraged to memorize. If they do, they receive a prize.
Wolfarth said her church camp mixes fun, education and Bible teaching.
"We try to teach good morals with memorable stories and pertinent examples," she said. "All of our activities are Christ-centered."
Each week at Wolfarth's camp has a theme, such as "Creation Week," and there is a week where they do a complete Thanksgiving dinner, with the emphasis on being thankful to God.
They also have chapel time two days a week and Bible time in the classrooms on other days.
"It's all nondenominational," Wolfarth said. "We also have great crafts and a playground and outdoor games. Pizza Day is on Fridays, and Tuesdays and Thursdays are Water Day. And we have local field trips, with trips to the library on Fridays."
During the week of July 13, the children at Wolfarth's camp will attend the church's vacation Bible school.
"This year (at the camp) we are fortunate to have individual rooms for each age," Wolfarth said. "We meet together for snacks and lunch, but then each group gets to return to their age-appropriate environment. A great time is had by all, and they leave knowing Jesus loves them."
Taylor said building team spirit is an important part of his camp.
"Team-building activities include team drama improv, Lego construction and relay races," he said.
His camp also offers coaching in basketball during the week of July 20.
Taylor is a coach at Hernando Christian Academy. Other basketball coaches are Norm Pingley, a former Hernando High School basketball coach and referee, and Lamon Neal, a former Hernando High player and assistant coach at Hernando Christian Academy. Other coaches are current players from area high schools.
"A day camp is important because during the summer many children have to sit home while their parents are at work," Taylor said. "When children are left on their own, many times trouble will soon follow. So our camp provides an opportunity for a child to come to a place of high activity, where they interact with others their own age and are being shown the love of Christ each day at camp."