Summer Camp in a Box

Jul 14, 2020

So much about this summer looks different. Chicago’s beaches are sparse and area pools are closed. Backyard barbeques come with face masks and social distancing. And, at The Salvation Army’s Harbor Light Corps Community Center in West Humboldt Park, summer camp comes in a box.

Harbor Light Corps has hosted a vibrant summer camp for area children ages 6-12 for years. “Many of the children we have served are living below the poverty line and will not have alternative opportunities for the summer,” said Major Nancy Powers, who leads the Freedom Center campus which houses Harbor Light Corps with her husband Major Merrill Powers. So Major Nancy and her staff brainstormed a home-based alternative consisting of six weeks of activities to keep kids engaged and safe in this season of COVID-19. Summer Camp in a Box started last week and runs through the first week of August.

Each week, parents go to the corps to pick up a box full of the supplies needed to accomplish each week’s activities around themes including vacation Bible school, growth (botany and health), telling your story (the arts), being a good neighbor (service to others), celebrating each other (diversity training), and careers. One set of boxes caters to kids ages 6 to 9 and another to 10- to 12-year-olds.

“Each week will have videos, crafts, outside activities, family games, socialization opportunities for group Zoom games, and small group check-ins with staff,” Major Nancy said. “We have application activities where kids will apply what they learned to a real-life situation, educational materials where they turn assignments in for prizes, and our field trips will be virtual.”

During the week on growth, campers plant seeds and make Venus flytraps with paper plates. During the week on telling your story, campers craft poems and write from daily story prompts. During the week on celebrating each other, campers design their own passport and make musical instruments common in other countries. All plans and supplies are included in each week’s box. 

Families pay just $5 a week for the first child, and $3 weekly for each additional child. Parents can also pick up meals for their children, three per day per child, every other day at no cost, part of the Army’s year-round feeding program for their neighbors in need.

“Students from Rush Medical Center and University volunteered to help plan each week’s activities.  Their knowledge, technical skills, youth, and enthusiasm enhanced the program development,” Major Nancy said. Rush, Northwestern Medicine, and the City of Chicago also helped underwrite the cost of the activity boxes, valued at more than $50 a box.

To register, call 312.667.2380. The Harbor Light Corps is located at 825 N. Christiana Avenue in Chicago, Illinois. See a list of all our youth programs throughout the greater Chicagoland area this summer.  

Learn about all the ways The Salvation Army is responding to the coronavirus – as well as how you can help – at

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Donate to Our COVID-19 Response      Fundraise for Good

For tax purposes: The Salvation Army Metropolitan Division EIN is 36-2167910.

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