SUFFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — A free summer camp in Suffolk could be closing its doors because of new requirements for volunteers.
It’s called the CHOICE Program and it’s been running for three years at the Salvation Army center in Suffolk. This year, Salvation Army is requiring all volunteers have background checks and it’s creating challenges for the program.
Antwan Robinson knows the streets of Suffolk can be unforgiving.
“I did some things out here in the streets that I’m not satisfied with,” Robinson said.
That’s why he created the CHOICE program three years ago.
“It’s a way of giving back to our youth in this community, let them know that they matter to us.”
CHOICE stands for “children helping other individuals see elevation” and it’s a free summer camp for kids and teens in the area. The goal is to keep them off the streets.
“You got a lot of people doing a lot of things and they are young,” said Doris Taylor, who has volunteered with the program in the past. “These are young folks that are out here stealing, drinking, drugging.”
Just last year, 170 kids and teens participated in the program.
“I see a growth in them. I see they’re doing better, talking better, doing things and I see an improvement,” Taylor said.
Robinson says the background checks are creating a challenge because many of his former volunteers are unable to afford them.
“We haven’t been able to get the volunteers for this year, and if we don’t get the volunteers to come here, or someone to step up and be a part of these youth’s lives, then there will be no choice program this year,” Robinson said. “The children will be stranded in the streets with nothing to do but fall victim to the streets.”
The Salvation Army says they’ve always worked to maintain a safe environment for the kids who come into their building. This new requirement is just a way to reinforce that.
“I highly respect and understand why and what they’re doing,” Robinson said.
The program is supposed to start this coming Monday. They need 10 volunteers and right now only have two.
For more information or to get involved, call 757-510-8939 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.