As I write this post, the summer of 2018 is fading into memory. It is Labour Day evening, and all over Queensborough and everywhere else, children are being put to bed in good time so they can be awake early to catch the bus on the first day of school. I’m willing to bet that every single one of them has a little knot of nervousness in their stomach, perhaps enough to keep them awake for a bit. They’re wondering what the school year has in store for them. What will their teacher be like? Will the classes be hard? Will all their friends from last year still be around? By the time they jump off the bus tomorrow afternoon, at the end of Day 1, they’ll be happy and relaxed and feeling comfortable about it all. But this evening? This evening, they’re a little bit anxious about what lies ahead. And you know what? Their teachers are feeling exactly the same way. I can say that because I’m a teacher – and I’m already fretting about the close-to-sleepless night I’ll probably have, thinking about what tomorrow has in store.
Before the end of this last day of summer – not officially, but the start of school always makes you feel that summer’s over – I’d like to tell you about a fantastic thing that happens every summer here in Queensborough. And it’s all about kids.
For more than 10 years, volunteers with the Queensborough Community Centre Committee have operated a children’s summer drop-in program. It takes place Tuesday and Thursday afternoons throughout July, and kids can attend a single session or the whole shebang at an extremely modest cost: $15 per child for all eight sessions, with a maximum of $30 per family no matter how many kids they have; or $5 per single session.
The drop-in program was the brainchild of tireless Queensborough volunteer Elaine Kapusta, who spent her professional life in education as a teacher and principal and thus brought a world of knowledge and ideas to the proceedings. But over the years more and more of the heavy lifting has been taken on by other volunteers from the community – including young people who started at the drop-in centre as wee kids!
Raymond and I are often travelling in July, and thus in the years since we moved to Queensborough I haven’t had much of a chance to check out the summer program. But our vacation schedule was a bit different this year, and so one bright afternoon in mid July, I headed up to the community centre to have a first-hand look.
The community centre – our hamlet’s historic former one-room school – was a happy blur of noise and bustle when I walked through the door. The activity that day was painting; a long table had been set up, and on both sides of it, kids were ranged in front of miniature easels, working away at their canvases. Some of the younger ones were at separate smaller tables, where their parents, other adult volunteers and the drop-in centre’s tween- and teenaged counsellors and counsellors in training were helping them. Leading the proceedings was Tweed artist Linda Myrie, one of an impressive array of visiting presenters for the program. Everybody was having a good time – and here are the results!
I was impressed with a whole bunch of things during my visit:
- How many kids there were. The place was full.
- How focused they were on their painting activity.
- How well-organized everything was – everything from painting materials to snacks was on hand as needed, and volunteers would appear whenever one of the young artists needed a bit of help or encouragement.
- How much fun everyone was having!
This is just a wonderful setup for the kids in our community – and not just the littler ones who come for the fun. It also provides paid summer jobs to the counsellors – most of whom are “graduates” of the drop-in program – and, for the counsellors in training, experience that may well lead to that paid summer job in future years. Here are the 2018 crop:
There was a day very early in the summer when I was out on the front porch of the Manse working on something or other, and I suddenly realized that there’d been a steady stream of early-teen kids going by on their bikes or on foot – about one every 20 minutes or so. What was up? I wondered. And then I realized: they were going to their interviews for counsellor positions at the drop-in program. What a terrific experience for these kids!
The budget for the drop-in program is not huge. The money to operate it comes from generous donations from community organizations – the Tweed Festival of Trees, the Madoc and Tweed Kiwanis Clubs, and the volunteer-run Madoc thrift shop, which raises money for a host of community causes – as well as from individuals. Meanwhile, it’s the hard work of dedicated volunteers – Joan Sims, Stephanie Flieler, Lisa Whalen and Jamie Gordon – that keeps it all running.
Thanks to the Queensborough Community Centre’s Facebook page, I can show you a few other photos of the fun that the kids had at this year’s drop-in program. There was first-aid-training day…
… and a visit from some wild creatures that belong to Tyrannosaurus Pets in Belleville…
And perhaps best of all, the traditional Water Day that concludes the summer drop-in program – a day for the kids to get outside in their swimsuits and, thanks to water balloons and water everywhere, get really, really wet:
Here’s what one parent posted on the QCC Facebook page the day Water Day was announced there:
Noah has been talking about it all morning!!! Woke up to his smile and “Is it camp day?” this morning. You have all been doing such a great job with this program! Thank you!
I’m sure that this mum was speaking for all parents of the kids who were able to enjoy the drop-in program this summer, and in summers past. It makes me so proud to know that, thanks to an inspired idea by Elaine and so much dedication by her and the other volunteers through the years, our tiny hamlet is able to offer this marvellous experience to our children.
As we bid farewell to summer 2018, I know that a whole bunch of Queensborough children and teenagers are eagerly awaiting the drop-in program of 2019. Way to go, Queensborough!