By Arlene Edmonds
Special to The CS&T
LIMERICK – Blessed Teresa of Calcutta in Limerick may be the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s youngest parish, but it is proving that the “baby” of the family is often among the most progressive.
This is evident by the parish’s innovative childcare and summer camp programs. Both cater to the needs of contemporary families rearing children in the 21st century.
So rather than the traditional day care that caters to infants and preschoolers, its childcare center includes those approaching adolescence.
When it comes to summer camp, the options are flexible ranging from those who need these services for one week to those who need them the entire school vacation time. There are even specialty camps that cater to the specific interests of the youngsters.
“Our parish was just founded in 2006 and immediately we looked at the needs of the families,” said Father Paul Brandt, pastor of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta. “What the families said they needed wa a full-time childcare program that was open throughout the year and on all the days that they worked. So the first thing we did was open a childcare center that is open from 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.”
While the babies, toddlers and nursery school age children have their own full-day schedules, the older children are also accommodated with the extended hours during the summer months.
Many conventional summer camps will start a week or two after school lets out and then end a few weeks before the new academic year. Not so for camps at Blessed Teresa of Calcutta.
When school ends on Friday campers can enroll to start the following Monday, and they can stay enrolled full time until the weekday before their first day of school, if need be.
Father Brandt said that when he did a survey of the parish needs, parents lamented how they often had to make arrangements for their school-age children during the gaps between the time that school ended and summer camp began. They also had a similar dilemma when summer camp ended in early to mid-August and the first day of school could be after Labor Day.
Since grandparents are often still working or vacationing and parents may not be able to take time from work or find alternate babysitters, this put a strain on families with both parents working.
“A church should serve the needs of the community,” said Father Brandt. “People were excited when the parish offered these full-time programs. So many in the parish immediately signed up and we even have those from the surrounding community, who are not Catholic, coming here as well. They know it’s a Catholic program and many are looking for faith-based programs for their children to be involved in.”
This summer there are also special-interest camps that run for shorter intervals. They include a basketball camp, soccer camp and cheerleading camp. Parents can opt to enroll their children for just a week or for the entire length of the program, even combining it with the regular childcare initiative.
The childcare program has already been filled to capacity with 72 youngsters. Most of these students attend the program 12 months out the year. The new summer camp still has a few openings, but already has 42 enrolled. “We are pleased that we’ve been having a great response to our programs,” Father Brandt said.
The facility’s director, Kelly Bouthillette, agreed. She added that parishioners and the community are attracted to the programs because of the stability of the staff. Many are experienced teachers, mothers and grandmothers who can share their wisdom with new or younger mothers. They also like the array of programming on one campus including the school, CYO and programs after and before school, plus a library that is open to the public.
“We have just so much going on here, it’s like one-stop shopping,” said Bouthillette. “We just had a Fourth of July parade. We will be having a carnival the first week in August that the camp is coordinating, and all the children, including the younger ones will attend. The summer camp goes on field trips that are themed and to the park. We have a nice piece of property so the children can run and play outside. We just have everything imaginable and so much happens in this building.”
Those interested in enrolling their children in the summer camp should contact Bouthillette at 610-287-2500, ext. 3.
Arlene Edmonds is a freelance writer and St. Raymond of Penafort parishioner. She may be reached at ArleneEdmonds@aol.com.