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Summer activities for kids in the works

When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade.

That’s sort of the idea behind the Summer Involvement Program (SIP) for children that begins Monday.

The initiative by community volunteers grew out of the biweekly “wrap-around” Zoom meetings community leaders have had to work together in responding to the coronavirus pandemic.

The acronym SIP evokes images of sipping summer, like enjoying the refreshing sweetness of a cold glass of lemonade, and the cover image for its Facebook page is a kid’s lemonade stand.

Deborah Jackson, activities director of Winchester-Clark County Parks and Recreation and one of those involved in the program, said that ordinarily, there are many summer camps and other activities for children in the area, but in discussing summer plans, it soon became clear those were all going to be canceled because of the risk of spreading the virus.

“Socially distancing children is very difficult,” Jackson said, so they had to think about what they could do to help children do things at home with their families or online.

What they came up with is that volunteers will put together and distribute activity bags each week. Each bag will contain materials for an activity children can do at home, as well as a schedule of upcoming activities and information about family support resources in the community.

On Monday, May 18, kids and their parents can grab their bags when they pick up their school lunches at the five sites where they have been getting food: Robert D. Campbell Junior High School, George Rogers Clark High School, Clark County Preschool and Shearer and Justice elementary schools. Every Monday after that, there will be only one distribution site — near the old Carnegie Library building at College Park.

Groups may drop off items for the activity bags from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday at the College Park Gym.

Suggested items include glow sticks, glitter, sparklers, smooth stones, Smarties, gummy worms, suckers and other candy, Play Doh, stickers, seed packets, jump ropes, soap bubbles, spray toys (no guns), baby food jars, small toys, chalk, balloons, squeeze balls, bubblegum, graham crackers, goldfish crackers, bags of microwavable popcorn (un-popped) and Kool-Aid drink mix packets.

Among the materials already donated are coloring books and crayons provided by Winchester-Clark County Emergency Management.

Materials should be dropped off by the Wednesday before the Monday when the bags are distributed.

Jackson said one activity that has been discussed is an online story book reading. For the first two weeks, activities will be “virtual.” Eventually, she said, it may be possible for College Park to be open to families for activities provided they socially distance themselves from other families.

Holly Shaver of Central Baptist Church and Parks and Recreation, and Veronica Brown, a teacher with Clark County Public Schools, are heading up the effort that involves many local groups, including churches, school family resource centers, youth protective services and many others.

“We are excited about the donations that are starting to come in,” Shaver said in a post on the group’s Facebook page SIP (Summer Involvement Program) Wednesday afternoon. “Summer can still be fun, even if we are socially distancing.”

Brown thanked those who had stepped up to help pack bags. She said volunteers would have to wear gloves and masks and be limited to four at a time to fill bags unless they were from the same family.

More information is available and people may volunteer or donate by contacting Holly Shaver at holly@cbcwinchester.com.