Camp Volunteers Plant Seeds of Love and Encouragement

Julie McAvity has spent ten summers spreading love and encouragement to a bustling crowd of eager, smiling faces at St. Mary’s Camp Summer Sonshine. “It is wonderful to just spend time with these kids,” she says. “We sing, they sing, we tell a story, and do crafts and chat with them. It’s just a little thing, but hopefully we are  planting some seeds.”

The summer camp culminated in a visit to our Ponte Vedra campus this week. In addition to crafting sessions, campers were fascinated by Master Gardener Bernie Golczynski (aka Mr. Dirt) as he explained the science behind butterfly gardens. They released hungry caterpillars to munch on the tender leaves. The campers then enjoyed lunch with staff and volunteers, and a brief musical prayer service in the church.

Volunteering at the camp provides parishioners volunteers the chance to get to know each other. “I loved seeing Jane Doherty give the kids a compass to know that they need to follow God, and Pat Pumphrey sharing a story about forgiveness, with little ones crowding over her to show off their reading skills” Julie adds.

This was Pat’s first experience volunteering with the camp. “It gives you a real sense of thankfulness that you have the opportunity and ability to do this work. The presence of God was there with the children, who are so receptive and grateful,” she says. “I feel like God has led me there, because they need us and I needed them.”

“It was a chance to deepen my relationship with my goddaughter,” she says, “and hopefully give her a chance to experience the notion of St. Teresa of Avila’s prayer:  ‘We are the hands and feet of Christ on earth and conduits of God’s grace.’ ”

Another newcomer to the camp, parishioner Elizabeth Coddon describes how welcome she feels among the children. “When I first showed up at St. Mary’s, one of the campers came over and gave me a huge hug,” she says. “Christ Episcopal Church volunteers love God and we show our love by reading picture book stories about lessons on forgiveness as well as listening to the campers and encouraging them,” Elizabeth points out.

“The warm, cheerful and loving attitude of the precious campers reminded me of the simple way of conducting my life,” she adds. “The camper’s creativity, exuberance for life and love filled the room with God’s presence.”

St. Mary’s Episcopal Church is an outreach mission of the Episcopal Diocese of Florida. Their annual Camp Summer Sonshine is one of the outreach ministries funded by Christ Church.