In April 2007, the Hardy Center began its very first summer children’s program with a total of 23 neighborhood kids and a very modest staff, consisting of six senior church ladies, and spear-headed by Program Director, Stephen Garland. Our goal was to feed breakfast and lunch to hungry children in the area during the summer months and that’s what we did. The Children’s Hunger Alliance provided meals.
In addition to feeding the kids, we provided basic programming (playground games and movies) to keep the kids occupied between meals.
With sights set on improving program offerings and attracting more families for the following year, we orchestrated a neighborhood carnival in June of 2008, complete with live entertainment, health awareness information booth, food, games, and prizes as we registered countless children for the summer program and for the fall after-school homework help program. During the summer, we served close to 150 kids and received volunteer help from teenagers, supplied by the Columbus Urban League, high school & college students who volunteered to work with us in exchange for community service hours, and senior church volunteers. In the fall, we opened up programming to include the No Child Left Behind federally funded after school program which provided children with after school homework help. It was staffed by volunteer teachers and educators, providing over 170 children with after-school snacks, dinner and homework help each school night before sending them home.
In 2009, our summer program was increased to 300 participating children thanks to the availability of van transportation provided by the congregation of Grace Apostolic Church. Summer VISTA volunteers (with the Ohio Association of Second Harvest Food Banks) provided volunteer support for our summer program.
We also received volunteer help from the Mature Services Organization. The Mid-Ohio Food Bank provided hot meals for the kids attending the after-school homework help program.
Each subsequent year brought additional program availability and participation increased to over 3500 children by introducing our programming benefits to highly populated apartment complexes in the area.
This required the ability to set up and tear down tents, tables and chairs on a daily basis. With the help of the Children’s Hunger Alliance, Huntington Bank and the Godman Guild, we were able to purchase the needed materials to provide meals for these children.
Realizing the human condition and pitfalls of inner-city life, we soon came to grips with the fact that we cannot possibly change fundamental elements in the lives of these children with our efforts alone, and so determined that every child that attends our camp deserves an introduction to the unfailing love of Jesus Christ and the salvation that He offers. He is at the core of all that we do. Once the introduction is made, the choice is theirs as to what they do with Him. It is with the initiation of this approach that we began to blessed with the assistance of partners coming to our aid. To see a list of those faithful, compassionate partners whose sponsorship has provided more support for this ministry than we could have ever imagine, please visit our Partnerships page.