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Wednesday, Apr 23, 2014

Plant City children's camp offers education and fun during summer

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PLANT CITY It's not all about fun and games at Lots of Hugs Learning Center.

Sure, the 65 children are entertained with the chance to paint, play soccer and take field trips to such places as Legoland Florida.

But the camp also has a serious side: offering children 5 to 12 tutoring in reading and other educational skills.

"We want to reinforce what they learned in school so they don't forget it over the summer," said Sharon Moody, who serves as camp director.

The camp, sponsored by the Plant City Black Heritage Foundation, runs through Aug. 16 at Mount Moriah Missionary Baptist Church. Moody is foundation president.

The camp includes daily Bible devotions and computer time. The children are served breakfast, lunch and a snack daily.

"Many of the children would have no where to go if they didn't come here," said Moody, who founded the camp, now in its third year.

All five of the staff members work with the Hillsborough County school district, although not necessarily as teachers.

Instructor Todra Summers, a nurse at Marshall Middle School, helps tutor the children in reading. She said she enjoys the work.

"We mentor the children and help them learn. We also teach them how to get along and we teach them morals and values. It's very rewarding," Summers said.

Volunteers also help staff the camp.

Parents pay $75 per child for the entire 10-week program. The amount is reduced based on financial need, and "if they can't pay we still accept them," Moody said.

The camp is also supported by donations from Unity in the Community, Lazydays recreational vehicle center and Walmart. The Girl Scouts, Lynn Helm Stick Ministry and Plant City Police Department also help by presenting programs.

Unity in the Community, which donated $20,000 this year, likes the camp because it fills a need in the community, Unity founder Joyce "Jordan" Hooke said.

"It is one of the groups that we believe in," Hooke said. "It keeps kids off the street ... It's just a good program."

One of the campers, 11-year-old Ta`coya Jones, said she enjoys the instruction and the field trips.

"We go to class and learn a lot of different things," said Ta'coya, a rising sixth-grader at Jackson Elementary. "It's fun."

The camp is in session 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday at the church at 911 E. Warren St. For information, contact Moody at (813) 453-7134 or sharonmoody91@yahoo.com.

Twitter: @dnicholsonTrib

dnicholson@tampatrib.com

(813) 394-5103

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