With fall upon us, we’d like to share some highlights from summer 2023 at HFH. HFH Summer Camps was filled with new friendships, unforgettable memories, and endless lakeside fun while Summer Day Camp kids at HFH family residences travelled around the world in 38 days, field-tripped to the American Museum of Natural History and Jr. Knicks Basketball Camp, and worked on their reading and writing skills with PBS and Writopia.

Left to Right: Campers enjoying Camp Wakonda's third Carnival; Summer Day Camp kids at Saratoga return from Jr. Knicks Basketball Camp; A parent from Allie's Place Afterschool & Rec listens to their child read to them during the Let's Learn workshop with PBS

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HFH Summer Camps 2023: "I Just Love Camp."

“My favorite thing about Camp is how I get to meet new people; I get to swim and learn different stuff and different activities; AND I learned how to swim this summer! I just love Camp.” — Maryama, 2023 HFH Summer Camps Camper

Nearly 100 children who have experienced homelessness were once again transported to the world of Camp Wakonda for HFH Summer Camps 2023! Campers spent their days rotating through activities—from playing sports to learning about the solar system at the exploration station. They took a trip to the Twin Lakes Regional Nature Museum, embarked on nature hikes with Nature Specialist Brianna, and choreographed dances.

Time spent in the lake was a favorite all around. Campers brushed up on their swimming skills—many learning how to swim, mastered paddling, and practiced their strokes in canoes and row boats. The campfires did not disappoint, and many an hour was spent honing dance skills for the much-anticipated talent shows—a Camp tradition.

At the end of each session, campers gathered on their last full day of Camp for an afternoon of fun and friendly competition at the Camp Wakonda Carnival. Campers bounced around activities from a water slide and dunk tank (filled to the brim with a rotation of counselors) to jewelry-making, canvas painting, and face painting with volunteers from Knock Knock Give a Sock! Campers made their memories permanent with polaroid cameras and lined up for their shot at winning plush toys at classic carnival games. The final carnival, sponsored by Stifel, reached a peak when Stifel volunteers, campers, and staff came together in an impromptu dance session to the Cupid Shuffle—capping off the season on a high note.

My three favorite things about Camp are that I get to spend time with my friends, and I get to play at the Carnival, and that I get to spend time with my counselors.” — Lilianna, 2023 HFH Summer Camps Camper 

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“I felt like this was a great opportunity to bring kids to nature and let them have that experience because a lot of these children have not been to Camp before, and it might be their first time with access to green space.”  — Brianna, Nature Specialist

"Igniting Hope" Through "Exposure & Experiences" at Summer Day Camp

Following conversations with Saratoga Summer Day Camp kids about the diverse backgrounds within the Saratoga community—the theme "Around the World in 38 Days" was chosen. Kids broke up into teams, chose countries—from Germany to Trinidad & Tobago, built villages, and presented what they learned. To top it all off, volunteers from Lufthansa transformed the recreation room into an airport, guiding the "passengers" through check-in, security, and a simulated flight—complete with flight attendants serving snacks.

Prospect and Allie's Place Summer Day Camp kids beat the heat with outdoor sprinkler fun—Prospect cooled off even further by trekking to the Museum of Ice Cream to learn about the history of ice cream and, of course, eat their fill on a hot summer's day. They also chopped and stirred away in the kitchen with Keys to Abundant Life and explored the theme of community through the lens of a DSLR camera with Kids With Cameras, pursuing photography by capturing the essence of their neighborhood. Saratoga, in turn, embraced the outdoors with their gardening skills—cultivating watermelons, zucchinis, and tomatoes—and completing a 5K race with Girls on the Run.

Allie's Place Summer Day Camp kids and their parents participated in four Let's Learn Workshops, hosted by PBS and Thirteen WNET New York, which focused on foundational reading skills to address the reading gaps caused by the pandemic. After months of work writing, creating, and refining their pieces with Writopia, the young writers at Saratoga performed the masterpieces for their peers and parents.

Saratoga defied gravity with a trip to Sky Zone Trampoline Park, and then bounced their way into Jr. Knicks Basketball Camp. Prospect reengaged their sweet tooth with a trip to Cricket's Candy Creations—learning how to make their own candy. Allie's Place explored immersive exhibits at the American Museum of Natural History and spent an afternoon with some arcade fun at Dave & Buster's.

"We asked the kids 'what ignites hope?' and one of the responses was 'exposure and experiences.’ That's the thing about field trips, it exposes them to different situations and different experiences that they might not get on a regular basis." — Michael Chapman, Director of Afterschool & Recreation at Saratoga

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Early Ed is open to the community.

There is space available in our three community-based Early Childhood Education Centers—one in the Jamaica neighborhood of Queens and two in the Bronx. They run full-day and are staffed by certified teachers, licensed by the NYC Department of education. Learn More.

Just Like That ... It's Back-to-School!

A huge thank you to Old Navy for once again holding a Back-to-School backpack and clothing giveaway at Saratoga and Prospect, prepping students with essentials for the '23 '24 school year and to Volunteers of America's Operation Backpack for making their way to Allie's Place, Clinton, and Williamsbridge to gear up students in The Bronx and Hell's Kitchen for the return to school.

Local libraries joined in on the school prep with Eastchester Library holding a backpack giveaway at Williamsbridge and Queens Public Library empowering Saratoga families through literacy with free books on their mobile library.

50 Cohorts and Counting at Allie's Place Culinary

Allie’s Place Center for Culinary Education & Employment reached an exciting milestone this summer with the graduation of the 50th cohort from our Culinary Essentials 1 job-training course. In July, the Center welcomed Gregorio Pedroza as the new Lead Chef Instructor. Gregorio joined the Center with a desire to give back to his community and now uses his 15 years of experience in the hospitality and food industry to prepare students with the skills and techniques necessary for a solid culinary foundation. With Director of Culinary Education Gabriel Rodriguez at the helm, the Culinary Team is at work tweaking the upcoming Pastry program, which will be taught by Chef Jayda. Stay tuned!

As the Center continues to expand, offering classes to the community and attending outreach events, we continue to engage with staff and residents at HFH family residences. Most recently, the culinary outreach team made their way to a fellow Bronx shelter, Williamsbridge, to encourage clients to apply at the end-of-summer picnic—interested individuals can now fill out the entire application online.

Congratulations to our Staff Spotlights

Jason White, Housekeeper at Allie's Place

“He is a leader, needs minimal directives, is a team player, [and] takes initiative on getting tasks done. He is very detail oriented and takes pride in his work.” (Read more.)

— Julissa Lantigua, Administrator at Allie’s Place

Elizabeth Castillo, Case Manager Supervisor at Clinton

“Her team really looks up to her and looks to her for guidance. She is overall a really good teacher; she is very patient.” (Read more.)

— Lexi Jones, Family Services Coordinator at HFH

We are looking for talented, passionate members to join the HFH team.
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