When five-year-old Jurnee is asked what she thinks of her summer at The Salvation Army Eagle Creek Corps Community Center, her response is immediate and enthusiastic. “It’s cool!” she exclaims, before listing off all her favorite activities from the summer: volleyball, snack time, swim lessons, field trips to places like the Indianapolis Motor Speedway – the list goes on.
Jurnee is a camper at the 8-week day camp held at the corps each summer. At a cost of only $60 per week, she and other school-age children enjoy an enriching summer in a loving and safe environment. While there, campers participate in the corps’ Summer Food Service program, which combines government subsidies and Salvation Army funds to feed members of the community who may not otherwise get the nutrition they need during the summer months.
“It’s open to the entire community, but it’s also a great opportunity for our day camp to come in and get some meals,” explains Captain Jonathan Cooper, Commanding Officer at the Eagle Creek Corps. “Parents don’t have to worry about packing lunches for their kids, and we don’t have to worry about fronting all that cost.”
The corps does, however, cover the costs for all adults who come for lunch and uses Salvation Army funds to provide additional food for kids who may be eating the biggest meal of their day. Lunchtime visitors are encouraged to return on Friday, when the food pantry is open, to stock up on weekend provisions. This unique pantry includes fresh vegetables from The Salvation Army’s own community garden, which is planted in raised beds where visitors and campers can learn about growing their own food and the value of fresh produce.
“The purpose is to show these kids and the people in our community that you can do this at home,” says Makayla Broer, Ministry Discovery Intern at Eagle Creek. “Yes, here’s food, but you can also do this. It doesn’t matter that we live in a city. There’s space to do it, and it’s easy.”
By the end of the summer, the Eagle Creek kitchens served almost 1,700 meals to the community while sending families home with fresh peppers, tomatoes, beans, corn and leafy greens. Thanks to the support of local volunteers and donors, Captain Cooper and his staff are able to continue sharing food and fellowship with their neighbors throughout the entire year.