Auburn expects more requests for rec camp help


AUBURN — Families have already started lining up for summer camp financial aid this year.

Janet Biron, Auburn Parks and Recreation Department administrative assistant, said she has started a waiting list for families seeking help paying for Auburn Recreation Camp for their children this summer. The list contains two names now, but Biron said she expects more before summer starts.

Biron blamed the national economy.

“This is the first time we’ve seen so many declaring ‘unemployment’ as their main source of income,” Biron said. “I blame the economy, with so many companies downsizing. People are unemployed right now, but they still need a place for their kids to go. So we’re expecting a lot more requests for financial help.”

But Biron said the city currently doesn’t have the money to help pay for camp. Both the city’s scholarship account through federal Community Development Block Grant funds and a smaller department-supported account are currently empty.

“March is when it usually begins, and people start planning what their children are going to do in the summer,” Biron said.

The city runs a recreation camp each summer at the department’s headquarters in Pettengill Park and at several Auburn elementary schools. The camp, which includes crafts, sports and field trips and daily breakfast and lunch, is scheduled from June 28 through Aug. 13 this year.

Biron said the city usually has 400 kids attending the camp. It costs $400 per child, which covers most camp costs and transportation between camp sites.

Last year, the recreation department provided scholarships for 39 families — a total of 96 children. Overall, the city allocated $21,000 in CDBG money to recreation department programs, including summer camp scholarships for the 2009-10 fiscal year. The last of that money was officially spent as of January 2010.

The department expects the city will allocate more block grant money in the next fiscal year budget, but that’s not scheduled to begin until July.

The department had $1,305 in its own scholarship account and that was bolstered by $376 in donations from city staff and residents. Biron said that money helped pay camp tuition for four kids.

City Councilor Belinda Gerry asked Auburn residents to make donations to the recreation department to help pay for scholarships.

“It’s just something we can do to help the kids,” Gerry said. “It can be a tough situation, especially for families with multiple kids and especially those living downtown who don’t have a yard to play in.”

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