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Spring and summer programming at The Root Cellar

In step with the Governor’s reopening plan for Maine, The Root Cellar in Lewiston set in motion their first stage of programming post pandemic shut-down on June 1. Dubbed Sensational Spring, neighborhood teens and young adults are volunteering in a mentor/tutor capacity with very small groups of children in a two-session, day camp style program. The mentors, some returning from previous summer programming, are trained to work with children, meeting them where they’re at and working to cultivate relationships. These teens and young adults will continue to develop their leadership skills throughout the summer as they mentor groups for Sensational Spring and for Super Summer (beginning July 6).

The children and mentors are put into small, S.U.P.E.R. Groups (which stands for Supporting, Uniting, Preserving, Empowering, Relationship Group). Each day is split into two sessions. The morning session, called Brain Food is from 9 to 11 a.m. During this session, the groups eat breakfast and work on writing, math, health science, and tutoring. The afternoon session, from 12 to 3 p.m., is extra-curricular activities focusing on sports, games, art and character development. 

Although Sensational Spring has been going well for over two weeks, it has not been without some challenges. 

The Root Cellar staff carefully prepared a COVID-19 Policy for their Spring/Summer programming, with over 50 policies following CDC guidelines for day camps and recreation. Among these guidelines are the requirements that the groups are small and all children, mentors and staff are required to wear masks during any interaction. 

“The kids have adjusted pretty well,” says Mentorship Program Coordinator Alyssa Morgosh, but it has definitely been a transition for everyone, especially compared to last Summer’s activities at The Root Cellar. This difference in operations due to the pandemic is part of the reason Morgosh started Sensational Spring as a stepping-stone for this summer’s Super Summer. It gives the kids time to “adjust to something different than they’re used to at the Root Cellar,” said Morgosh. 

While this year has and will look a lot different than any other year, it has been filled with opportunities to bring God’s kingdom to the neighborhood. Many needs have arisen due to the pandemic, a primary one being food security. For many children, school was the primary way they received nutritious meals for breakfast and lunch. 

Along with expanded food pantry resources for the neighborhood, The Root Cellar became a primary location for breakfast and lunch distribution, in partnership with the Lewistion Public School System. Through distributing lunches, staff and volunteers at the Root Cellar have been able to connect with a significant number of families and children. 

Accompanying the meals distributed everyday were Brain Food worksheets for all levels of grade-school, prepared and distributed every morning by Morgosh, and staff members Emily Bollinge, and Victoria Derosier. 

And despite having limited capacity amid the pandemic, the small groups have been a blessing in disguise. The required structure allows for “a phenomenal staff ratio of two to one. Because of keeping the groups small, we’ve made a tremendous impact in these kid’s lives.” Morgosh explains. These small SUPER Groups allow for relationship development and opportunity among friends and neighbors to cultivate social, economic and spiritual wholeness. 

“We’ve had to get creative for field trip opportunities because of COVID-19 and social distancing,” Morgosh says. However, because of this, the kids have gotten to experience new things. One example Morgosh shared was that two children learned how to ride bikes during the programming so far, when they had never been on a bike before. 

The staff and volunteers are working hard to be a part of the neighborhood this summer despite necessary restrictions due to the pandemic and they look forward to a COVID-aware Super Summer beginning soon. 

Stay tuned for more information on summer programming for The Root Cellar in Lewiston and The Root Cellar in Portland. You can also visithttps://therootcellar.org for more information. 

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