Yesterday I spoke with Miss Diana, 57. I had to step over the homeless man on her stoop to enter her home. One block down police were handcuffing a man face down on the sidewalk. Miss Diana lives on East Side where she raised her own kids years ago.
“I thought I was done,” she said wearily. Now she has custody of four more children, ages 5-16. They are not even directly related to her.
“Sometimes I just say, I can’t do it anymore, I’m done. But I love them too much to send them back to their mom. That’s where UrbanPromise helps me. I’m tired. I’m worn out. I need help to keep going. The summer camp is a god send.”
The living room where we sat was sparse, the furniture old and worn, the light dim. Her younger kids attend UP’s Camp Victory, launched 15 years ago. Victory’s Director Bethany Wolstenholme sat in the sagging couch next to me as we listened.
“When my kids are in camp I know they’re loved. I have to trust whoever takes care of my babies.The staff know me, they visit, they walk the streets of our neighborhood. I trust them, and my kids absolutely love being there. There’s no place else like that.”
Bethany has invested seven years serving the East Side and wearing a spot on Miss Diana’s couch. The warmth between Bethany and Miss Diana was evident.
“Camp is free. That helps me a lot. I can’t let them be on the street. It’s not safe. They arrested a man with a gun right outside my door yesterday. 4:30 in the afternoon! It didn’t used to be like that, but I can’t let them be on the street and catch a bullet or find trouble. Camp Victory is an answer to prayer.”
As Miss Diana spoke I imagined myself at 57 raising a second family that was not my own. I considered how my suburban neighborhood has never had a violent crime, a homeless person on my stoop, or an arrest on my block, and how my children played outside every day carefree. ‘She’s standing in the gap,’ I thought, ‘how can I stand with her?’
“I’m so thankful for Bethany, she’s my friend. She’s got my back,” Miss Diana continued, “I can share with her about the kids. She understands, she knows them. We have coffee together, we pray together, I go to church with her. She’s like family.”
“UrbanPromise helps me to not give up,” Miss Diana shared with emotion in her voice. “You listen to me, and you share Jesus and the Bible with my babies. This neighborhood needs you.”
Free camps, committed staff living in the neighborhood, a sustained presence, excellent programming, exciting trips to give the kids new experiences and hope, Christ based curriculum, meaningful relationships, a positive presence in troubled neighborhoods – this is how we ‘have Miss Diana’s back.’
Miss Diana saw a gap with these four kids. She chose to stand in the gap. Bethany saw a gap, a neighborhood with families that needed help. She’s standing in the gap. This summer twenty interns will stand in the gap to make Camp Victory and our other summer camps the best in the city, free to our poorest families.
UrbanPromise has a big gap facing us as well. We enter this summer without the resources we need for these summer camps. We need you to stand in the gap with Bethany and Miss Diana. I have 10 teens who need a job that I can not yet hire. I need $2000 to hire each of these teens, to give them a life changing job and put them on a college track.
I need $1500 each week to rent the buses necessary to get 400 kids out of the city to a park or farm or museum – trips they will not have and experiences they will not know unless we give it to them. $900 will sponsor our costs for all of Miss Diana’s kids, $300 will sponsor one child in camp this summer. $50 will buy them one week of joy, fun, and love. And give Miss Diana a break.
“This neighborhood needs you,” she told us. This neighborhood needs you. Stand in the gap with us and change the city this summer. Make summer camp possible, give generously, help Miss Diana to keep going and to not give up.
P.S. Come visit us and meet our kids!