VALDOSTA -- Greater Pleasant Temple Baptist Church on Cherry Street held the last day of their summer camp recently. They ended a three-week day camp with a field day and a cookout.

This is the fifth year that the camp has occurred, a vision that Dr. Ronnie Mathis began when he came to the church in 1993. He saw a need for an afterschool program, and made that vision possible.

After the school year ended, Mathis saw that the children needed something constructive to do during the summer. Three years later, the summer camp was born.

This year, 54 children were enrolled at the camp. According to Mathis, he had to turn away 45 entrants.

"We could only have 50 children this year," he said. "But we slipped and got four more. I hated to turn children away, but I couldn't help it."

Children at the camp are between the ages of 5 and 14. Young adults can volunteer at the camp and help with reading, feeding the children and other various jobs.

"This is the older youths' way of giving back to the community," Dr. Samuel Clemons, Lowndes Middle School principal, said.

Volunteers come from people in the church as well as teachers.

The camp runs from 9 a.m. to noon every day. Students who need transportation are picked up by church vans at 8 a.m.

According to Clemons, the camp begins with a devotional from 8:45 until 9 a.m. Then classes begin. Classes are broken up by age. Fifty-five minutes are spent working on math skills, then classes in art and music. After this, a reading comprehensive class is given before breaking for lunch. Lunch is provided by the Lowndes County school system.

During the camp, safety classes are held. People from the sheriff's, fire and police departments came to talk to children about safety. Videos were shown as well. Children also made posters and slogans for the "Click It or Ticket" campaign. Those slogans and posters will be displayed at the South Georgia Regional Library on Woodrow Wilson Drive.

There is no cost to join the camp. To advertise, Mathis said he usually sends out flyers, but this year, people knew from word of mouth.

"People just know when it is and start signing up," he said.

The children seem to enjoy the camp, too.

"I enjoyed coming here," Erica Bines, a rising sixth-grader to Valdosta Middle School and first year camper, said. "I learn a lot and get to have fun also."

Erica Vixen, a seventh-grader at J.L. Newburn Middle School, said that she heard of the camp through her mother, and liked the camp.

Some of the children have been coming to the camp for years. According to Mathis, about 75 to 80 percent of the campers have been to the camp before.

In addition to the summer camp, the church also has a daycare for children six months to four years. And Mathis still has visions for the church.

"One day we will have a pre-K to third grade," he said. "It will happen in time."



To contact reporter Michelle Taylor, please call 244-3400, ext. 247.



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