by David Vermilya
On March 7 the Town Shop reached a remarkable milestone. The program celebrated its 36th birthday. Many people claim it is the longest enduring teen program of its kind in New York State. Some say it may be so for the entire United States, particularly under the same leadership. And it is a tribute to the Camillus community that has supported and sustained a program that honors the interests of the youth population that is underserved in most other communities.
Winter season has been particularly busy. Daily attendance has averaged 40 to 60 teens per day with new participants entering the program weekly. Sine the beginning of the school year nearly 90 different young people have donated their time and energy to weekly service projects like feeding the disadvantaged at St. Paul’s Samaritan Center or caring for retired race horses awaiting adoption at Sunshine Horse Rescue. Two four-hour training sessions for new volunteers attracted 40 teens who spent the time revisiting and reviewing program standards and assessing ways to welcome new participants, explain the program to visitors and maintain smooth relationships with neighbors.
While the first half of winter offered few opportunities for outdoor adventure, by February break there were was snow galore just in time for a three-day winter camping trip at Highland Forest for more than 20 young people. And there were numerous opportunities for creative expression, from well-attended showcase music concerts to monthly open mics for poetry and music. A particular highlight was the Feb. 7 songwriting and poetry workshop hosted by nationally known songwriter Peter Mulvey.
As spring approaches the Town Shop program begins a major transition. With warmer weather comes greatly reduced building hours, down to three evenings per week in April and May, and two evenings per week in June, July and August as program emphasis shifts outdoors and away from the building. Canoe and kayak adventures, volleyball at Gillie Lake, picnics and field trips to area parks, service projects like the April 21 CNY waterways cleanup, Earth Day, Rotary Club pancake breakfast May 12, plus major field trips like New York City become the norm.