Look up Camp No-Lacka-Wawa on your Iowa map and you're not likely to find it.
But show up at Glenwood Lake Park every Tuesday and Thursday from 2 - 4 p.m. and you’ll see a bustling little tribe of youngsters squeezing every drop of fun out of late summer at a new day camp aimed at children of families displaced by this summer’s flooding.
The camp, dubbed Camp No-Lacka-Wawa by Michelle Franks, and started with the assistance of the Mills County Flood Recovery Committee, was founded a few weeks ago as a response to the summer doldrums of kids fighting boredom and parents fighting the stress of being put out of their home by flooding.
Franks, director of Boost4Families, a community empowerment agency that provides financial and programmatic support for services for children, was tasked with spearheading a community response to offer fun and respite with those displaced families that took up residence in Mills County’s campgrounds.
“They called and said they had some kids that were kind of unsupervised and bored and having to deal with being displaced in the campgrounds here,” Franks said.
With help from the committee, Franks broached the idea of a two-day-a-week day camp. The bored and restless kids could spend a couple hours every Tuesday and Thursday playing games, making crafts and having fun while their parents could have a little respite.
Thus was born “Camp No-Lacka-Wawa” - a name Franks came up with late one night that she admits may not be politically correct but does fit the idea of taking families’ minds off the flooding with a little fun.
“Typically, I’m more of a paper shuffler and an administrator. This was an opportunity that presented itself and I enjoy it and wanted to help to see what we could do,” she said. “I really wondered what we were going to call the camp and ‘Camp No-Lacka-Wawa’ hit me. And it sort of mushroomed from there.”
The camps started July 19 but turnout was sparse at the camp’s other location, the Pacific Junction Community Building. Franks and the committee subsequently shifted gears and decided to hold just the one location at Glenwood Lake Park. The last two day camps have been well received. Last Tuesday seven kids showed up for an epic water fight in the park. Franks hopes those numbers grow as families hear about the program. On Thursday, volunteers coordinated campers in a bike plate craft project.
“What we offer is a camp where parents can bring their kids down and we keep them busy,” Franks said. “If parents are living in the campgrounds or displaced in apartments or wherever, they can bring them down and we have staff there to take down information and supervise them if they (parents) want to go get groceries or need a couple of hours. We’ll take care of their kids and make sure they’re in a safe, well-supervised environment.”
Campgoers aren’t limited to families living in Mills County campgrounds; any children of families displaced by the flooding are welcome. There’s no charge for attending and volunteers from Mills County Extension and the AmeriCorps program supervise care and take a lead in most of the games and crafts.
“They (AmeriCorps) volunteers are great. They’re young so they have a lot of energy and the kids just love hanging out with them,” Franks said.
Franks and the flood recovery committee are also planning some evening events for families, including a public information night, popcorn and movies and an ice cream social.
“This gives everybody a little break, because I know before school starts everybody gets a little stir crazy, especially with the heat, and adding to the additional stress of the flooding. We’re trying to create an opportunity for parents to get a breather.”
Support for the camp has been great so far, Franks said. Churches and community groups in Cass and Montgomery County have donated snacks, books and craft supplies.
The tentative plan is to hold the camps through the start of the school year in late August.
“It’s just a few more weeks but our goal has been to be responsive to whatever the families might need. One of the nice things about doing this is that the kids may not need a lot a structured agenda because they just play but what we’re finding is a lot of parents like to come and talk and vent. And we have volunteers there that just have an ear to listen.
“The idea is to just be responsive to what people need and get them connected.”