Valdosta Daily Times

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July 30, 2013

Inner City Life Step Camp celebrates anniversary

VALDOSTA — Reverend J.D. Martin of King Solomon Missionary Baptist Church is no stranger to helping the community. He has led many community service projects over the years and recently had the joy of seeing his Life Step Camp celebrate its 10th anniversary. What started as a loving way for Reverend Martin and his wife, Ethel, to nurture the community soon blossomed into the thriving camp that it is today.

The Life Step Camp is the product of the efforts of many volunteers and church members and allows less fortunate kids a chance to have a summer camp experience. The camp is held at the 4-H camp in Lake Park,  and has made positive impacts on the lives of numerous children in the area. With attendance numbers ranging from 30 to 50 kids a year, this camp is a fun outlet for kids before their return back to school. It also helps them learn the respect and manners they need to re-enter the classroom as all campers must adhere to the same rules that would be enforced in a school environment.

This three day, two night camp gives students a chance to enjoy all the fun of a typical summer camp while also incorporating valuable life lessons and biblical teachings. When the kids aren't out swimming or playing games with the Director of Camp Recreation Billy Hamilton, they can be found listening to guest pastors, participating in prayer and worship time, and singing songs.

Campers are also fed nutritious meals thanks to donations from Second Harvest of South Georgia and given school supplies by Commercial Banking Company.

All the volunteers at the camp expressed what a humbling experience it is to be involved with such an important cause. Many of the campers have attended annually, so the volunteers have enjoyed the experience of watching these children mature over the years.

Officer Vernotis Williams of the Valdosta Police Department is one of the volunteers at the camp and has been involved with helping for nine years. He spends his time sharing the dangers of drugs, peer pressure, and other community threats with the campers. He stated that he wants the kids to not fear the police and hopes they will build trusting bonds with the police department. He allows them to ask any questions they may feel too afraid to ask in other situations.

Overall, the camp has registered 475 students and boasts a 97 percent graduation rate over its ten year life span. Rev. Martin also makes an effort to follow up on his camp participants after the camp is over. This camp is not only an opportunity for children to enjoy an experience they may not otherwise be able to have, but it is also a learning experience for the volunteers as they grow over the years with them.

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