NORWALK, Conn. – The gap in funding needed to send 200 of Norwalk’s poorest kids to summer camp is now $53,000, Carver Center Executive Director Novelette Peterkin said.
“The mayor is working and the superintendent (of schools) is working, hoping to get corporations and folks to support it so that we don’t turn any kid away,” Peterkin said.
Mayor Harry Rilling’s office announced last week that the Carver Foundation had agreed to administer the summer camp program formerly run by the failed Norwalk Economic Opportunity Now (NEON), with the cooperation of the South Norwalk Community Center (SoNoCC) and Friends of Ryan Park. Peterkin and SoNoCC Deputy Director Pat Ferrandino said that came about in a joint meeting that included Martha Dumas of the Friends group, Norwalk Finance Director Thomas Hamilton, Board of Estimate and Taxation Chairman Jim Clark and Norwalk Superintendent Manny Rivera.
“I believe that Pat and Martha were concerned that the students were displaced,” Peterkin said. “I don’t think that either one of the organizations were in the position (to run a camp). There was a short period of time to obtain a summer camp license, so it was obvious that we would have to take the lead.”
“It was decided that Novellette would put the camp together but would transition it to the South Norwalk Community Center next year,” Ferrandino said.
Rilling put $92,000 in the 2014-15 budget as a placeholder for the camp for children ages 5 to 13 years old. There was funding for 100 children, Ferrandino said, but the group needed to raise $100,000 more for an additional 100 kids, Ferrandino said.
Peterkin said the camp, which will run from June 30 through Aug. 8 at Columbus Magnet School, will cost Carver $1,000 per child. Carver estimates it will collect $30,000 in fees, Peterkin said. Some parents will pay $200 and there is a sliding scale for people in public housing, she said.
Carver would need corporate pledges by the second or third week in June, she said.
Carver already has 185 kids signed up for its own summer camp program, Peterkin said. It’s also running a program to help eighth-graders transition into high school freshmen and is responsible for a total 385 kids, she said. “We didn’t have resources to put into camp other than personnel, my time, my directors’ time,” she said.
Ferrandino is helping register kids and she expects this to be a one-year thing, Peterkin said.
“Novelette’s putting together a blue book, a bible of how to operate a summer camp,” Ferrandino said. “We don’t have necessarily a hand in it this year other than observing.”
The camp will mirror Carver’s “high quality” summer camp, with instruction in math, science, literature, swimming and tennis, as well as field trips, Peterkin said. Susan Weinberger, Ed. D., “agreed to be the doctor for the camp,” Peterkin said.
“It’s short notice,” Peterkin said. “I could not turn my back on the kids. The mayor asked and I thought about it. I have two young sons of my own. I can’t imagine not being able to have a summer option for them. So I’m doing my best to accommodate the kids.”