Encompass Summer camp sparks interest in community service

Trading their school books and homework for shovels and care packages, Encompass preschool's Community Crusaders explored ways to give back to the community this summer.

The weeklong day camp for children ages 7 to 9 in its first year, Community Crusaders challenged young people to find projects on the environment, volunteerism and troop support. The camp exposed children to issues they don't see very often, said Stacy Cepeda, Encompass Community Activities Manager.

"The hope of the whole camp was for them to think about ways to give back," Cepeda said. "Hopefully, it will continue in their adult lives."

Teaming up with the city of North Bend, their first project was to plant trees in Torguson Park.

"It was a lot of work, backfilling holes that Public Works dug out. They were there all day," Cepeda said. "They did an excellent job—no complaining—and they had fun."

The next day, the Crusaders spent time at Rattlesnake Lake cleaning the park, learning about how their duties improved wildlife habitat.

Excited about animals, their time making catnip toys and dog chew toys out of towels gained lots of interest.

"We then toured the Humane Society facilities, so they could learn how to volunteer in the future and how animal shelters worked," Cepeda said.

Leaving their comfort zone, the group headed to North Bend's Red Oak assisted living residence, where the campers baked all morning and prepared finger food snacks for the seniors.

"It was a good opportunity for them to come out of their box," Cepeda said.

On their final day, the campers met a parent who was a sergeant in the military and had been to Afghanistan six times.

Through his connection, they made 16 care packages for troops in the battle zone.

Projects gave campers a taste of community service, but were enjoyable, so young people will have good memories and want to keep volunteering.

"My goal was for it to be fun," Cepeda said. "We had an opportunity to spark interest in each of them differently."

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