The vision and mission of the first UrbanPromise was conceived in a dusty church basement in East Camden, NJ. A small group of college-age missionaries created a summer camp for neighborhood children–providing a safe, loving, fun, and creative place for local youth to escape dangerous city streets. Inspired by a chance meeting with Tony Campolo, Rob Prestowitz began volunteering in Camden and his experience led him to give up his corporate career to found a similar program in Wilmington in 1998: Camp Victory on Wilmington’s East Side.
In the first ten years (1998-2008), UrbanPromise:
- Added four more camps throughout the city: Camp Freedom (North Side) Camp Promise (West Side), Camp Harmony (North Side), and Camp Hope (Southbridge).
- Founded UrbanPromise School, an elementary school serving youth K-5
- Started the StreetLeader Job Training program for teens
- Purchased headquarters at 2401 Thatcher Street
- Purchased two staff houses (East and West sides of Wilmington)
- Began hosting International Fellows, welcoming Bible College students from Malawi.
The first UrbanPromise StreetLeader headed off to college in 2005!
In its second decade (2008-2018), UrbanPromise:
- Founded a high school in downtown Wilmington: UrbanPromise Academy
- Added a sixth and seventh camp: Camp Amen (East Side) and Camp Faith (West Center City)
- Began the UrbanTrekkers Program – an outdoor experiential learning program
- Started the UrbanPromise Sports Program
In these first twenty years, UrbanPromise served over 500 families, employed 1,000 teens, and impacted over 10,000 children!
The beginning of the third decade (2018 – 2022) has seen:
- A new UrbanPromise Academy location and urban garden on North Market Street
- An expansion of the elementary school to grades PreK-7 and the high school to grades 8-12
- A new fundraiser: “Paddle for Promise” to raise funds for the StreetLeader Job Training Program
- An agile pivot to online learning and socially distanced camps during the COVID pandemic, while also maintaining community through outside family visits, family Thanksgiving pie drop -off, and StreetLeader cupcake drop-offs
- A safe return to in-person activities
- Initial renovations of Rick’s Rock on East 28th Street to house Administrative offices
- The transition from Rob’s leadership to an Executive Council
Community Partners, neighbors, churches, businesses and volunteers make this all possible. In 2019, UrbanPromise had 285 weekly volunteers and 102 work teams totaling 1,800 people. Volunteers contributed over 74,000 hours. We cannot do this work alone!