A weeklong summer camp hosted by the Clinton Police Department and Olive Grove Church extended the opportunity for local youngsters to hang out with police officers and representative of other local agencies — another effort by the department to build relationships within the community.
The camp culminated Friday with a Block Party sponsored by the church and held at the Sampson Center. During the camp, a group of 16 children aged 9-12 learned about drug awareness, anti-bullying and the everyday tasks of police officers, firefighters and Wildlife personnel, while also engaging in some regular summer activities — swimming, fishing and watching movies — with their new police buddies.
“It went very well,” said Clinton Police Chief Donald Edwards. “It was an outstanding group that we were working with. We don’t really advertise it ahead of time because we know the response would be overwhelming.”
Instead, the department and Olive Grove worked with local schools and churches to get recommendations on potential campers. Edwards said the event, in its second year, had the same mission.
“It’s a way for youth to engage with law enforcement on a personal level rather than seeing us stop a car or arrest somebody. This gives them a chance to get to know these officers,” said Edwards, who noted that the Clinton Fire Department, N.C. Wildlife, Eastpointe and others were also involved in the camp, held each day from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Fire personnel showed off equipment as well as their smoke house, which simulates various emergency fire situations in the home. Wildlife officers taught campers how to shoot and about gun safety in general using a BB gun. Campers and police officers, while talking about various aspects of police, also just hung out — fishing, swimming and the movies being different activities on a particular days.
“Who do you go fishing with? Who do you go to the movies with? Friends and family. That’s the kind of connection we want to establish,” the police chief remarked. “Each day (as part of the camp), they would have an activity, a lesson and a meal.”
The camp was funded in large part due to donations from the community.
“That’s really how we covered it this year,” Edwards noted. “The response we got last year fueled the success this year. We had people call saying ‘we want to help.’ We can’t do what we do without our community partners, and a lot of people contributed this year.”
Along with those directly involved in the camp, the Block Party was spearheaded by Olive Grove Church and its pastor Russ Emanuel, along with Higher Level Ministries and pastor Onyx Martin, as well as Ministry and Purpose and its pastor, Councilman Darue Bryant. Many others also pitched in throughout the week.
Edwards said he and others are already planning next year’s third annual camp.
“I’m very excited about it,” he said. “We were able to grow it this year and it was bigger and better; the same amount of kids, but more activities for them. We’ve already got some ideas for next year to make it even bigger and better.”