Glyndon Church Attracts Urban Day Campers

by Tom Werthman
It’s 9:00 on a beautiful Monday morning in Glyndon, Maryland. In the yard behind St. John’s Episcopal Church, a few bleary-eyed teenage volunteers wander around aimlessly, watching, waiting.
     Suddenly, a large yellow school bus rumbles up the unpaved drive. The teens line up, the bus door creaks open, and out pours a vast tangle of humanity. A crowd of children, between the ages of three and twelve, dash toward their waiting counselors. One enthusiastic group of boys nearly gang-tackles their instructor.
     A young girl pleads with another counselor to give her a piggy-back ride. Still others rush for the tire swings, the wiffle balls, the juice and graham crackers. The whole countryside echoes with the squeals and laughter of young children.
     So begins another day at the St. John’s Summer Day Camp.
     This non-profit camp, which runs through July and the first week of August, was founded in 1978 by current St. John’s rector, Philip Roulette, and the church’s vestry. The goal of the camp, now headed by director Bob Miller, is to give children from inner city neighborhoods the opportunity to play in the countryside.
     “The camp gives a chance for these kids to spend a few hours outside in an environment unlike any they may have ever encountered,” says counselor Greta Miller. “Not only will they get the benefits of clean air and natural beauty, they will also prosper from the uninhibited nature of the place.”
     After the morning prayer has been said, the day begins in earnest, with kids busying themselves painting pictures, kicking soccer balls, and generally having a good time.
     “I came to have fun,” says camper Tahira Stackhouse.”
     Many times, the experiences shared are just as important to the counselors as the kids.
     Counselor Jenny Werthman, known to one little girl as “mom,” reiterated that point: “It gives you a good feeling to know you’re making a difference in their lives. These kids are great.”
     No day at St. John’s is complete without a trip to the swimming pool, the horse farms, the hay rides, or one of the many other places offered to the camp by property owners who want the kids to gain the true “country” experience.
     By mid-afternoon, the bus slowly rumbles back to the camp for the ride home. The children file on board, some still clutching their drawings, or crafts glistening with undried paint and glue.
     As the bus crawls away, many counselors run after it, waving and shouting good-byes. Some counselors report feeling a little sad, knowing that once camp is over they might not see these kids again. But they find comfort in knowing they’re carrying on with the mission of St.. John’s, helping provide happy summertime memories for the young campers.

St. John’s Summer Day camp is a non-profit organization. Donations are always welcome. Please send them to St. John’s Episcopal Church, 3738 Butler Road, Glyndon, MD 21071. If you would like to inquire about volunteering as a counselor at the camp, please call the church at 833-5300 or Bob Miller, the director, at 374-6365.

Copyright © 2003 The Baltimore Chronicle and The Sentinel. All rights reserved. We invite your comments, criticisms and suggestions.

Republication or redistribution of Baltimore Chronicle and Sentinel content is expressly prohibited without their prior written consent.

This story was published on July 29, 1998.