A tiny ceramic bunny lay on the table in front of Ruth. With a paintbrush in hand, the 12-year-old hovered over the small puddles of paint trying to decide on the right shade to bring her white bunny to life.
Ruth is one of a roomful of children her age painting ceramic figures that they will later give as gifts. The activity is part of a day camp called Great Spirits.
I’ve been coming since the first grade,” Ruth said. “My favorite part is that it really helps kids learn about the next grade level. It makes it easier to understand.”
Great Spirits is a three week day camp consisting of children that attend inner city Catholic schools. Children get breakfast, lunch and snacks along with an hour of math, an hour of reading, and hour of fitness and other typical camp activities. A renewable grant allows the camp to keep the cost down to $25.
Painting ceramics brought the group to the Fountain Square’s Salvation Army. But a few brushstrokes of brightly covered paint were only a small part of a greater lesson in ministry.
“I’ve worked with Brian (Smith, the volunteer coordinator for Salvation Army Indiana) on service projects in the past,” said Chris Moore, a Great Spirits counselor. “I thought The Salvation Army would be a great place to give back and be a part of ministry.”
Fellow counselor Sarah Luckhaupt said most of the 240 children in the camp were usually on the receiving end.
“Last summer we did a service project at the food pantry. These are kids whose parents use the pantry or have lived in shelters,” she said. “Now they get to see that they can help and give too.”
Luckhaupt was involved in ministry her entire life and knew the importance of a program that got children involved in it at a young age.
“It’s more likely that these kids will volunteer later in life,” she added.
The camp ties activities to service projects like neighborhood clean ups or stocking the food pantry. The kids even do simple fundraisers.
“We did a collection called Penny Wars,” Luckhaupt said. “We had the kids go home and search under the couch cushions. We raised $500 in change and donated it to Horizon House.”
Even the ceramics were a part of a service project for the children.
Once their figures were painted and left to dry, Great Spirit campers filed into the cafeteria for a snack and lesson about giving as part of The Salvation Army’s Bite Back Brigade, a program for school-aged children. The Bite Back Brigade teaches students that there are people all around them dealing with difficulties in life such as homelessness and hunger. Children learn how to be a part of the solution.
“They will learn about what it’s like to be homeless,” Brian Smith said. “Then they will learn what it means to give. They will be told to give their ceramic to someone else so that person can feel a sense of hope.”
In short, it’s all about giving; a word used more than 2,000 times in some form in the Bible.