“Were All in This Together” A Summer Camp 2020 Success Story

September 2, 2020

Press Release: Morristown Green

“We’re All in This Together” A Summer Camp 2020 Success Story

By Jackie Looby

Preparing for summer camp in the midst of a global pandemic is not something most organizations have experience doing, but at the Morristown Neighborhood House we knew that our children and families were counting on us. “It was certainly a journey for the Nabe, but the team stepped up and prepared for opening our doors because it’s just what we do”, said Dayjahnae Rogers-Martin, Senior Director of Child Care Services and Enrichment for Cornerstone Family Programs and Morristown Neighborhood House, who oversees the summer camp program. “When times get tough, our staff gets tougher and we band together – after all, we’re all in this together,” the belief which inspired this year’s summer camp theme, says Rogers-Martin.

Long before childcare centers got the ‘green light’ from Governor Murphy to reopen their doors, Ayo Sanderson Wilson, Chief Operating Officer of Cornerstone Family Programs and Morristown Neighborhood House, was already strategizing and devising a plan with her team. “When we were approved to open our doors, the team was understandably anxious. The laundry list of ‘to do’ items was long and kept getting longer, and the idea of returning to in-person childcare programming felt surreal at times. However, our children and families needed us, and I had no doubt that if anyone could do this right, it would be our team!” stated Wilson. Reflecting on the end of the 8-week summer camp with ZERO Covid cases among staff and students, Wilson emphasized “there are no words to express the relief, exhilaration and pride of knowing that we accomplished our mission to support of children and families with a safe, fun summer experience.”

Safety was a priority and the staff spent countless hours strategically designing and implementing new protocols, and intensive cleaning procedures. Plexiglass barriers were installed, and all the necessary PPE supplies were ordered, all to ensure everything we needed to run a safe and effective camp was firmly in place. Linda Murphy, Executive Director of Operations and Outreach, Cornerstone Family Programs and Morristown Neighborhood House, spearheaded the facilities overhaul. “Camp is important, we didn’t want our children to miss out on a great summer experience, but their health and safety always comes first and was our highest priority,” Murphy stated.

On opening day, July 6, summer camp 2020 welcomed 60 campers ages 3-11 and things looked a little different. Campers were dropped off at the outside check-in station, their temperatures taken, and a health screening completed. Each camper was given their own personal colorful mask, camp T-shirt and escorted to their classroom by their teacher. Although field trips and other camp activities were not an option this summer, our campers had a blast. Having been cooped up inside for months, they were thrilled to be reunited with their friends and camp counselors. Virtual class competitions, social distance gym races, ‘paint and chill’ art classes, the beloved Summer Talent Show and virtual tours of places near and far were among the fun summer camp experiences. Our teachers used their passion and creativity to make summer camp just as memorable and fun as any other summer at the Nabe. “Sure, things were different, masks were mandatory and there were rules and restrictions, but to the children, camp was just as fun. We adapt and we work together and when we do, our community benefits,” said Rogers-Martin.

Our eight-week summer camp was a major success and finished on a high note. “The trust and camaraderie that our staff built with our families by overcoming obstacles together will have long and lasting impact on our team. This has given us the foundation and optimism to be better prepared for the new school year,” stated Marjorie Herbert, Associate Executive Director of Morristown Neighborhood House. The Neighborhood House plans to open their Preschool and Before and After School Care Programs on September 8th following the state and health department guidelines to accommodate for more than 100 children. Limited space is still available for their Toddler through Pre-K program and registration is open. “We learned a lot this summer and were able to fine-tune our procedures and are looking forward to a safe and successful school year ahead,” says Cornerstone CEO, Patrice Picard. “Our commitment to our mission and the families we serve is what drove our success this summer and we are optimistic about recreating that same magic during the school year,” Picard emphasized.

For information about enrollment in the Neighborhood House Toddler & Pre-K program, contact Marjorie Herbert @ mherbert@cfp-mnh.org or call 973-538-1229.