PORTLAND — The foundation that provides money to help public schoolchildren in Lewiston attend summer camp will likely do so for one more summer before re-evaluating the program.

The Libra Foundation of Portland provides $500 per child to fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders. Libra also provides money for public school students in Bangor and Portland to go to camp.

“Next year we’ll continue it, then see how it works,” said Owen Wells, president of the Libra Foundation. The program began in Lewiston in 1999 with a stipulation that it be re-evaluated after 10 years.

Helping kids go to summer camp is money well-spent, Wells said.

“I remember going to Camp Connor one time, watching a college sophomore teach kids how to swim,” Wells said. “He said, ‘OK, fall backwards.’ They weren’t about to.”

But within 10 minutes, the counselor had them falling into the water, Wells said with a chuckle.

“Never say never, but our feeling is it’s a program worth putting money into,” he said.

Earlier this year, scholarships were cut from $1,000 per child to $500 after an evaluation showed that “a lot of new camps were springing up,” with higher rates to take advantage of the liberal $1,000 scholarships, Wells said.

“With the Y day camp it’s about $100 a week,” he said. “Our feeling is that if the kids went to that for four or five weeks, they got the essence of the camp experience.” 

The Libra Foundation gives money to two other camp programs, one that encourages winter sports and another that encourages reading. Of the three, the summer camp program was costing the most.

The goal is to bring the summer camp program cost more in line with the others, from $3 million to $1.5 million a year, Wells said.

Larry Marcoux of the United Way of Androscoggin County said 1,000 Lewiston students were eligible for the program this year, and 65 percent of those attended a camp — “which is very high. It remains steady and positive,” he said. “We’re happy with that.”

Most of the Lewiston students who go to camp with a Libra scholarship wouldn’t be able to go otherwise, Marcoux said.
Lewiston “is very fortunate,” he said. “This is a true gift to the community from Libra.”


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