Original Found Here (Daily Iowan)
BY JAKE KRZECZOWSKI | APRIL 07, 2011 7:20 AM
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Khalid Khalid smiled and laughed as he tossed a battered football to a friend.
The 12-year-old was surrounded by dozens of jovial elementary school kids Wednesday at the Pheasant Ridge Neighborhood Center, 2651 Roberts Road.
“This place is amazing; it has had a huge impact on my life,” said Khalid, who comes to the center every day after school to work on homework and unwind.
The center, which has provided a place for children and teens to spend time after school, has also offered a Good Neighbors summer camp for local children for the past 10 years.
However, budget shortfalls across the state have left the center with a $30,000 deficit for this summer’s camp.
“We have a diverse funding base,” Neighborhood Center Program Director Sue Freeman said. “That helps in lean times, and we are in some lean times.”
The deficit stems from funding cuts to the Johnson County Decategorization Board for the next fiscal year, starting in July. The board is responsible for a large chunk of the summer camp’s ability to subsidize its fees.
According to a press release, the summer camp budget cuts will eliminate funding for more than 60 elementary-age children living in Pheasant Ridge, the Broadway Neighborhood, and Forest View Mobile Home Park.
Traditionally, the camp has been subsidized for low-income families as a way to give kids something to do when school is out. The funding pinch has caused the center look to the community for help.
“We are calling on the folks in Iowa City to help us out,” Freeman said. “We are asking for direct support, asking people to sponsor a child. In the hardest of times it is really important that we’re helping the most vulnerable kids.”
It costs $600 for one child to attend the camp for a summer, which, in the past, has come from the state, some grants, and donations.
The Neighborhood Center’s current plan is to ask for donations from local businesses. Some have already expressed interest.
Donna Zender, the owner of Zender’s Salon and Spa, 4 S. Linn St., said the business has a donation budget, which it would be willing to use for things such as the camp.
“We like to help when we can,” Zender said. “This sounds like a great opportunity.”
State-funded summer camps are struggling with funding nationwide as well.
The local camp provides the youths with breakfast in the morning, followed by activities throughout the day to keep them busy and engaged during the long summer months. Each camper also meets with a personal tutor to stay sharp on their academics.
“We have a lot of kids every day here,” said Jessica Perone, Pheasant Ridge site director. “We’re trying to get programs to give them structure, things to do besides hang out and go online.”
And for some, the thought of a summer without the camp is nearly unfathomable.
“My life would be a lot different [without the camp],” Khalid said, sitting on a couch in the Pheasant Ridge lobby. “I’d be home, bored, not doing anything. There are way too many memories here, I don’t know what I would do without it.”