Grace Camp Celebrates 10th Year
Over a decade ago, and following a conversation between Miatta Wilson, Director of Children’s Ministries at First Presbyterian Church of Dallas, and former CEO of Presbyterian Communities & Services, Godwin Dixon, an idea was born. What if a child’s church camp experience could be replicated inside a retirement center community? Wouldn’t this provide a wonderful opportunity for interaction among the generations? Of shared knowledge and connection between old and young alike? The answer was a resounding “yes,” and in 2009 Grace Day Camp was born.
For one week that summer, elementary-age children (rising 4-6 grade students) attended a camp hosted on site at Grace Presbyterian Village (now Villages of Dallas) and participated with residents in activities like storytelling, cooking & baking, singing & crafts, and even vocational lessons in things like physical and occupational therapy.
Want to have a swim in the pool? Take an exercise class together? Play a round of Bingo? Share a meal? These were all activities that the campers and retirees enjoyed together. And now, 10 years later, they’re still at it, and the program that began with First Presbyterian has expanded to include Camp PVN – a similar camp modeled on Grace Day Camp that takes place at Presbyterian Village North with children from both NorthPark and Preston Hollow Presbyterian churches.
“One of the aspects of the program that our kids enjoy most is the opportunity to learn about different vocations from staff members and residents,” says Wilson. “They also hear from residents who were teachers, who worked for NASA, or even served as missionaries translating the Bible.”
“The kids’ favorite part of the week is sitting around the lunch table with the residents and the relationships that are built. First Pres kids see some of their resident friends during worship on Sunday, and others they go to visit on their own throughout the year.”
Kathy McCarron, who serves as Director of Children & Family Ministries at NorthPark Presbyterian Church calls Wilson, “the ultimate educator” and credits her with sharing the camp model far and wide.
“When I started at NorthPark, they had been involved with the camp at Presbyterian Village North for about 5 years. We currently work together with Preston Hollow and PVN to develop the theme, activities, and schedule with a focus on spending time with the residents. This year we created a newsletter where the kids did interviews, visited memory care and served the residents, and even had a food drive with NorthPark’s Reverse Food Truck and created snack bags for a local reading program.”
“Each year evolves a little differently,” says McCarron, “but the kids love being with the residents and the residents really enjoy seeing us.”
Wilson says the week-long camp is probably her favorite program. “Each year my heart is filled with love and renewed energy for my call to ministry through what I see happen and experience with the children, residents, and staff at Grace Camp.”