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The sounds of summer camp: Kingdom Touch Ministries offers kids crafts, sports and reading

  • Liz Bloom/Jasper County Sun Times - A student, AJ, is happy with his finished mask.
  • Liz Bloom/Jasper County Sun Times - While the younger kids rest in the afternoon, the older kids play sports in the Destiny Center gym.
  • Liz Bloom/Jasper County Sun Times - Each week kids get to make new arts and crafts projects. Last week kids made birdhouses. And before Father’s Day they made picture frames.
  • Liz Bloom/Jasper County Sun Times - RHHS head basketball coach Jeremiah Faber comes three to four times a week to teach basketball, softball, or soccer to the older kids.
  • Liz Bloom/Jasper County Sun Times - This past week the kids painted masks. Some kids painted intricate designs, other’s took a more abstract approach.

From the outside, Kingdom Touch Ministries in Ridgeland looks and sounds like most of the churches around Jasper County: quiet and calm. But just behind the doors, children’s laughter and voices echo throughout the building — the sounds of summer camp.

Kingdom Touch Ministries has held a seven-week summer camp at the church for years, but this year is the first with the newly completed Destiny Center.

“The facility itself has been a great component of our camp,” said Crystal Lewis, the Pastor Jerome Lewis’ wife and spearhead of the summer camp. “It’s given us the ability to allow the children to come inside — because it’s so hot — and play. They dance, we play indoor softball, indoor soccer, basketball. Just the space itself has given us the opportunity to do so many more things on the inside.”

On an average day, the camp hosts around 50 students, ranging from 5 to 14 years old, from 7:30 a.m. - 5:30 p.m. KTM provides breakfast, lunch and a snack for the campers as well as arts and crafts, physical activity — including swim lessons and canoeing at Sgt. Jasper Park in Hardeeville — field trips, and reading time.

“Coach (Jeremiah) Faber comes in three to four days a week and he does sports with our group. He works with each group,” said Crystal Lewis of RHHS’ boys basketball coach.

Three days a week, the campers get to swim at the pool just outside the church. Lifeguards from the YMCA teach the kids swim lessons two days and supervise the kids’ free swim time one day. Then once a week, on Wednesdays, the campers ride the bus to the movie theater in Bluffton. Last week they saw Goosebumps.

One of the core missions of the camp is to provide a wholesome loving environment, and that means enriching the children in every aspect: creatively, educationally, physically. The counselors volunteer their days and spend the time at camp learning about each child, catering to their needs and helping that child grow. This individual attention and interactive atmosphere creates that wholesome and loving environment.

But the camp does more than just cater to the young kids in Jasper County; it is a unique work opportunity for 15- to 16-year-olds. KTM is a certified Job Readiness Training (JRT) program. Through that program, youth can build their resumes, get career advice, earn community service hours — and get a paycheck.

“With our JRT program we are able to hire 20 children and they receive a total of $725 for the summer if they work 80 hours and complete 20 hours of training (total). So we’ve implemented it with our camp,” Crystal Lewis said. “We want them to not only get the experience of working with the children and learning responsibilities, but we want to also invest in their future too.”

Kingdom Touch is a certified Teen After School Center as well, for at-risk youth. These programs are carried over into the school year, when KTM provides its after-school care program.

The Destiny Center was a big help last year for the after-school program, it allowed the church to accommodate more kids and provide more activities. The growth in after-school care led to growth in their summer camp, which Lewis hopes leads to more growth in the upcoming year’s after-school care program.

Providing resources for the community is an integral part of KTM. Their children’s summer camp costs $50 a week, which is $1 an hour. Their after-school program is $20 a week, or $5 per day. KTM also accepts “drop-ins,” children just coming for the day, at a rate of $15 per day.

The wings of KTM has stretched far — reaching children from Beaufort, Bluffton, Hampton, and Jasper. The church partnered with Step of Faith Christian Academy’s athletic program last year, helping them attract students. But this summer, Lewis said, more students from the public schools started coming, some regularly, to the church for camp.

The church will hold camp through the end of July. The after-school program will start the first week of school in August. Interested parents and volunteers are encouraged to reserve spots for camp or the after-school program as early as possible by calling the church at 843-717-3060.

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