More than a dozen children and teens from Newark and East Orange recently enjoyed a day of summer-camp fun in the country when Cross Roads Camp and Conference Center hosted participants in the Diocese of Newark Prison Ministry’s PATCH II (Parents and Their Children) program.
The youngsters started their outing with a cookout prepared by volunteers from Church of the Messiah, Chester, and St. Peter’s, Morristown. The meal ended with a birthday celebration of ice cream and homemade cupcakes for a boy turning 14 that day.
Then Cross Roads staff led participants – including the adult chaperones – in scaling the rock-climbing wall and tie-dyeing T-shirts. Julie Crawford of Messiah, who coordinates the Good News Garden at the camp, led everyone on a scavenger hunt to identify plants in the garden. Youngsters also harvested some ripe vegetables and brought home their own planted seeds to grow.
The day ended with swimming in the camp pool.
For more than 30 years, Prison Ministry has brought children to visit parents incarcerated in the Essex County Jail. Supported by congregations throughout the diocese and diocesan grants, Prison Ministry also provides enrichment programs, holiday parties, school supplies and camping opportunities for children with parents who are incarcerated or recently released from incarceration.
The Cross Roads outing marked the first in-person activity for PATCH II since the COVID-19 forced a suspension of jail visits. Prison Ministry moved its enrichment programs online and delivered holiday gifts, school supplies, books, grocery cards and other items to the families’ homes to support them during the pandemic.