SHELBY CO., Tenn. — Each day, during the regular school year, Shelby County Schools provides more than 60,000 free lunches to its students.
Then, beginning May 30, families can participate in the Summer Feeding Program to ensure kids get healthy meals free of charge. But what about that week in between school and the program?
A Memphis teenager is attempting to “fill the gap.”
At 17-years-old, Brooklyn Johnson is wise beyond her years. The nonprofit founder is gearing up for her first charity event.
“I know that summer camps don’t start until the first week of June and most schools let out the last week of May. So, in that gap week, I know people don’t have anywhere to go,” the St. Mary’s student told FOX13. “So, if they do rely on food, or a discounted lunch from school, they don’t have that lunch, or that nutrition that they need during the week.”
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The nonprofit is called Empower Memphis. Brooklyn said she dreamed up the idea when she was bored at home last summer break.
In order to bridge the gap of “gap week,” Empower Memphis will host a summer camp, providing lunch and snacks each day.
Brooklyn has the support of her parents and her church, Colonial United Methodist, who is hosting the camp.
“I know when I was 16 – she’s been working on this a little over a year – helping someone else was not even on my radar. So, I’m very, very proud of her,” says Caroline Gaines, Brooklyn’s mother.
She told FOX13 the camp is not just a way to make sure children are fed, but also a safe place for them to go while parents or guardians are at work.
“It was always a struggle to find somewhere for my school-aged kids to go during that gap week,” said Gaines. “I don’t know why anyone hasn’t thought to have school end and summer camps start at the same time.”
Brooklyn and her team of volunteers will focus their first camp around her first love: cheer and dance. Giving kids an opportunity to learn a new skill.
“Many cheer and dance places are either really expensive, so that the children in the lesser communities can’t always have access to that,” Brooklyn said.
The Empower Memphis summer camp will be open for boys and girls ages 5-14 with scholarships available. Campers are asked to bring a donation to the Ronald McDonald House.
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