After Camp

 

Some people who come to Laity Lodge Family Camp are leaving their city for the very first time. What happens when they go back home?

Groups of students gather around a basketball court at 8:30 to start the day with Camp Good Sam on San Antonio’s near West Side. They try to pop balloons tied to each other’s ankles. They perform cheers, yelling and dancing in unison.

Anyone who has attended Roundup in the Canyon would feel a strong sense of déjà vu. Some of the campers may have been experiencing it themselves, in fact, because Good Samaritan Community Services, which runs Camp Good Sam, also sends families to Laity Lodge Family Camp.

The effort is part of our partnership program, which has served families since 2009. The program provides full scholarships and transportation through community partnerships with several nonprofit organizations focused on families, including Good Samaritan and other organizations that serve impoverished children and families. These retreats have been funded through the generosity of area foundations and individuals in excess of $400,000. One organization, The Harvey E. Najim Family Foundation based in San Antonio, believes in the partnership program so much they have donated $175,000 over the last seven years.

These donations make it possible for Good Samaritan to make LLFC a reward for families of students who work hard. According to Emily Vandewalle, Public Relations and Marketing Manager for Good Samaritan, “It’s based on consistent attendance, participation, and behavior.”

Good Samaritan is an ideal partnership organization for The H. E. Butt Family Foundation. The staff of 160 full- and part-time employees offers vulnerable families and children a wide range of opportunities such as food support, child care, robust after-school programs, case management, counseling, and even senior services. Good Samaritan served 5,665 separate individuals last year, many of whom were engaged in programs that last weeks or months.

 

“I always tell my kids we are a team, and Family Camp was when our team came back together.”

Cynthia Perez

Cynthia Perez attended LLFC in February 2016. “I was surprised when my family was chosen,” she said, adding that she could hardly believe the sense of peace she felt in the Canyon. “I felt thrilled, like I was in a palace!” she said. “I didn’t have to worry about what our next meal was going to be or how I was going to get it. “I always tell my kids we are a team, and Family Camp was when our team came back together.”

Another parent who attended Family Camp through Good Samaritan said that it “brought us a little closer. We are at a better understanding with one another. The kids are more curious about Jesus and the Bible.”

Good Samaritan continues to serve these same families once they leave Family Camp, in an ongoing effort to help them escape poverty. It is no small task. The Center sits in one of the poorest zip codes in San Antonio, where over 40% of families live in poverty. For a family of four, that means living on less than $25,000 per year.

“Our solution is to solve the problem one kid at a time, one family at a time,” said William Hileman, chairman of the board of directors. “If you want to measure success, look at the number of people who want to come back and work [at Good Samaritan]. They come back as board members, employees, and donors.”

That is what Ramon Aparacio has done. He started coming to Good Samaritan in the first grade to play basketball after school. Now a graduate of Lanier High School and a second-year student at St. Philip’s College, Aparacio said he wouldn’t have made it to college without his experience at Good Samaritan. The staff even helped him apply for schools and financial aid. “I’m not very good in dictionary skills,” Aparacio said laughing, “so there was lots of stuff they helped me with.”

Now that he is succeeding in school, Aparacio wants to help others. “I felt so good about what they did that I wanted to give back to others like they give to me,” he said. “That’s why I’m here.”

“I like it here, too,” said one of his third-grade campers, Xavier Tellez. “There’s so many things to do, and the staff, they like to do activities with you.” Tellez, Aparacio, and several others settle into an intense game of Knockout on the basketball court.

Inspired by his counselor, Tellez is deeply engaged. If he and his friends keep up the good behavior and consistent attendance, they will experience all that Good Samaritan has to offer, including a partnership retreat at Laity Lodge Family Camp.

Article by Marcus Goodyear. mgoodyear@hebfdn.org

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