UM-Flint Discovery Camp Youth Pay It Forward to Homeless

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An excited group of elementary-aged youth participating in Discovery Camp 2016 at the University of Michigan-Flint's Early Childhood Development Center planned and assembled nutritious sack lunches last week to support and encourage Flint's homeless residents.

Inspired by the camp's Pay-It-Forward theme for the week, the children planned a nutritious menu of turkey and ham wraps, fresh vegetables and fruit, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, chips, bottled water, and more.

Then they put their plan into action, working on cards and pictures, decorating paper lunch bags, and donning gloves to prepare fresh fruit and vegetables and make healthy wraps in assembly-line fashion.

Underneath all of the fun and smiles was a sharp community focus and desire to help people.

"I wanted them to know how to be contributing members of society and how they can help," explained ECDC assistant teacher Nicole Swink. "This is another way for the kids to give back."

Nicole Swink with staff and Discovery Camp youth preparing fruits and veggies.

Learning to be resourceful when an abundance of sandwich meat outlasted the available wraps, the kids added more meat to the wraps and made new sandwiches with bread. Some cut veggies or pulled apart oranges and placed them in baggies. Others packed chips, a beverage, and a dessert. Then the bags were packed and ready for staff to deliver them to the North End Soup Kitchen.

In addition to making fresh lunches, the kids collected toiletries and personal hygiene items for the individuals served at the North End Soup Kitchen. The Flint Farmers' Market and Discovery Camp children also donated food and items for the project.

Sean Guinn, a third grader from Flushing, enjoyed being part of the team that put together the wraps. "I'm happy and excited because we get to make burritos for the homeless," he said.

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Discovery Camp children made cards and decorated lunch sacks.

Jaxson Stephen, a sixth grader from Flint, easily took a leadership role on the wrap-making assembly line: "The coolest thing is seeing when everyone is making them, they are having fun, and it's also going for a good cause."

Madison Bright, a seventh grader from Flint Township, was energized by the opportunity to work together with different age groups while helping people in need. "We get to help people out," Bright said. "It's been really fun. The kids are getting to know each other better and I've made a lot of new friends."

Throughout its programming, the ECDC strives to provide meaningful opportunities for children to serve, as well as learn from, people in their community. During the Pay It Forward week, Discovery Camp kids also visited the Flint Fire Department, UM-Flint Department of Public Safety, and UM-Flint Environmental Health and Safety to learn how others serve their community.

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