For the past 30 years, HOPE Charitable has helped teens develop their schooling and character. The founder says that with high crime, this is more important than ever.
PORTSMOUTH, Va. — A Portsmouth summer camp aimed at keeping children off the streets may not take place this year.
Organizers from the nonprofit HOPE Charitable Services have been running this camp for nearly three decades, but now they can’t afford it.
Gun violence traumatizes people all over Portsmouth.
“It affected her to the point where she didn’t want to go out and play anymore,” said Jacynthia Jenkins.
She said a bullet went through their house about a month ago, forcing her 13-year-old daughter, Nevaeh Hunter, into therapy for a cure.
“I literally had to push her to the floor because she didn’t know what to do and we just lay on the floor,” Jenkins said.
Now that her fear is fading, she is preparing to volunteer at the annual summer camp, a camp she attended herself.
“It’s very beneficial and you will see the results. This ministry has done a lot for the community,” Jenkins said.
However, due to financial difficulties, the organizers may not be able to succeed this year. Bishop Frank Allen, who leads the organization, said the past two years have been difficult for everyone.
“Two years have hit our donor base hard because of COVID,” he said.
Camp counselors will primarily focus on academics and character building.
“We have two major goals for summer camp this year. That is to keep the kids in the classroom and off the streets, especially recently with declining school performance and increasing community violence,” said Kameron Billings, camp coordinator.
Allen said that academically they really focus on reading and math because based on their conversations with the Portsmouth public school system, that’s where students need the most help.
RELATED: VDOE Report Paints Dark Picture of State’s Public School System
“We’ve had kids catching up to third and fourth grade in as little as a summer,” Allen said.
He said they expected more than 60 campers throughout the eight-week program.
“We are expecting a number of children who come from families who have lost children, the siblings of those children, to gun violence in the streets,” Allen said.
Allen said if they raise the funds and the camp moves forward, he calls this year “the summer of hope.”
“A big part of our programming is about restoring hope, building peace, and helping our downtown neighbors who have lost so much find themselves by offering support during these difficult times. Through our summer program, we help families with prepared meals, groceries, clothing, housing, advocacy, practical social work, support services and with their children by providing school support and recreation in a safe place,” he said.
Allen said he hopes the lessons they teach during camp are lessons these teens can take with them for a lifetime.
“What we do, we not only transfer hope, help and education, but we also take the time to help these children learn values. We don’t just teach them what they don’t what not to do and what to do to be good citizens, but we teach them why. We take the time to help them understand why so they can build their own moral fiber and character,” said he declared.
RELATED: Portsmouth Police provide update on crime prevention plan
Jenkins can attest to that. She said HOPE had a major impact on her family. She quit using drugs, met her husband and had her daughter while being involved in the organization. She said she was happy that her daughter could grow up with such a caring group of people.
“This is a ministry that just doesn’t talk, they walk the talk and I’m an example of the love HOPE Charitable has given me and my family,” Jenkins said.
Allen stressed that it is essential to dedicate resources to these children.
“It’s people like them who are going to change the problem. It’s people like them who are going to fix this broken city,” he said.
Allen said it cost about $55,000 to remove the camp. He said he knows wallets are tight right now, but he hopes the Hampton Roads community can do what they can to help. Camp is scheduled for June 27.
If you would like to donate, click here. To learn more about what HOPE Charitable Services can do for you year-round, or to sign up as a volunteer, click here to visit their website.