By Mary Ellen Mitchell
In our children’s atrium program we sing a song about the liturgical year and corresponding colors: purple is for preparation, white is for celebration, green is for the growing time, red is for Pentecost. Because our program ran October – May over the last year, we tended toward all the colors but green. Green, however, as our liturgical calendar wheel makes clear, is the bulk of the year. In a European growing cycle this time is also the time when you grow and harvest; outside of an agricultural framework we know it as “ordinary time.”
As we head into summer, aka ordinary time, it strikes me that at Lydia’s House summer is anything but! In the world of family homelessness summer is known as the “summer surge,” or a time when many doubled up relatives are asked to move out, causing the census of shelters to rise. Typically Lydia’s House stays full in summer, and many of the children we serve tend to be a bit older, as school aged children are particularly vulnerable to the pressures of displacement during this season. We learned early on that older children, and better weather, set the stage for more programming. We are supported in these efforts by a number of foundations that encouraged us in offering “child enrichment,” among them GCF summertime kids, The Dater Foundation and The Episcopal Diocese of Southern Ohio.
When I consider summer at Lydia’s House many good memories rise to the surface! Dinners are frequently outside, accompanied by basketball or “umi car” races down the driveway. We frequently porch sit after dinner and often visit our local corner store, Ameristop, for soft serve. My kids and Lydia’s House kids run together to the store, and adults accompany them home, trying to keep the ice cream from melting by licking the cones.
Summer always includes camp. We’ve heard from guests that camp was a highlight of their childhood, if someone had coordinated it for them through church or the Boys and Girls club. We decided Lydia’s House could be such a coordinator, and developed relationships to make camp a reality. Annually, we send kids to Camp Joy and take families to Procter Episcopal Family Camp.
Other activities have included family carnivals, field trips, shopping trips for back to school, Shakespeare in the backyard, pool parties, Reds games, parades and amusement park trips. Often, in the summer, something fun is added to our schedule every week.
Sometimes it’s hard to explain what makes Lydia’s House unique as a shelter. Other times, it’s very clear. Summer, especially, helps us live into our calling to be extraordinary in the hospitality and support we offer to the families we serve and those in the extended community of former guests and volunteers.