Project Sunshine returns this month to provide a summer camp program to homeless children living in Danvers motels.
The program will accommodate 45 children ages 6 to 14 and run from June 25 to August 17, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Smith Elementary School. The program is entirely funded through private donations.
"The town of Danvers has really stepped up and reached out to support this program," said David Mountain, the town's recreation director. "It's really the right thing to do because we're going to have kids that don't have access to the recreation programs in the summer, give them a place to go and positive role models ... that's really the goal of the program, to provide a fun, safe summer for the kids."
Children are provided breakfast, lunch, and snacks - donated by the Danvers food pantry and prepared by volunteers from the senior center - and participate in all kinds of activities that one would expect to find at any summer program. Among special activities scheduled are weekly trips to Devereaux Beach in Marblehead, and a free afternoon outing to a baseball game courtesy of the Lynn Navigators.
The program was conceived last June when Town Manager Wayne Marquis approached Mountain looking to accommodate the more than 100 homeless families living in Danvers motels along Route 1 and Route 95. Many of the motels in the area have an agreement with the state to provide transitional housing to homeless families, of which there are currently 149 in town.
"If we don't run this program what will happen is kids will be out on the highway, Route 1, 128, no place to go," Mountain said.
With little time to plan and gather funds, the Recreation Department was able to raise $25,000 for the program, which ran for six weeks, and ended up being recognized with an Innovative Program Award from the Massachusetts Municipal Association in February.
"I really believe we have some quality programs, we don't just warehouse children," Mountain said. "When we run a program, it's a quality program. There are enriching, fun, safe activities ... there's a lot of planning that goes in."
As last year, the program will receive no funding from the town, instead relying on donations from Eastern Bank and North Shore Bank ($5,000 each), and efforts such as the Rays of Hope Fundraiser put together by former state Representative Sally Kerans, which raised $7,800 over two weeks. The program is currently about $13,000 short of its projected $35,000 budget.