CHOICE Program fully staffed thanks to community involvement

SUFFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — A volunteer crunch put a free summer camp in a tough spot.

The CHOICE Program is in its fourth year at the Salvation Army Center in Suffolk. For the first time, the Salvation Army required all volunteers to have background checks, which was a financial challenge for some CHOICE Program volunteers.

After 10 On Your Side aired a story on the CHOICE Program, the community stepped up. Now, they have the volunteers they need. Even though the camp started one week later than they had hoped, the organizers say they’re just happy to give kids a place to go.

“I was playing basketball since I was five,” said camper Skyshun Harden. “Most of the time, kids would be sitting in the house just playing video games.”

When WAVY News spoke with the camp’s founder about two weeks ago, he only had two volunteers. After the interview aired, Antwan Robinson says that all changed.

“We did the interview, people started pouring right on in. The next morning when I woke up, my email was filled up. Phone calls were coming in, I mean it was to the point where I couldn’t even write fast enough,” Robinson said.

Now, the CHOICE Program is back in full force — going from two to 18 volunteers.

“I saw it on channel 10 news and I just thought I’d be a part of it, you know I felt the need to come help out the community,” said April Anderson, one of the 18 volunteers.

Anderson is working with the younger kids: Coloring, making art and dancing. She said, “Kids are always filled with surprises and a lot of creative things. So they help to inspire me and I just try to inspire them back.”

The camp will be held every Monday, Wednesday and Thursday from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the Salvation Army Center throughout the summer. The program is free to all campers.

Salvation Army Captain Johnny Anthony said, “For them to be able to use the gym for free, without any kind of cost, that is awesome. From the beginning, we just wanted a safe place for kids to be here.”

It’s the same goal of the CHOICE Program: Keeping kids off the streets.

“They need something to do during the summertime than just roaming the streets,” said Robinson.

For more information or to get involved, call 757-510-8939 or email anariye@gmail.com.