Newton Neighbors helping pay summer camp costs for low-income families

Newton Neighbors, a local nonprofit that facilitates mutual aid efforts in Newton, is running its annual campaign to help fund summer camp places for Newton students whose families cannot afford to send them.

Newton students who receive camp scholarships from the city still need to cover 10 to 20 percent of the cost, which can prove a financial burden for families. To help bridge this gap, they are seeking to raise $10,000, which would fund about 35 students.

Newton Neighbors was founded in 2020 by four women seeking to help families after the closure of in person schools, particularly students who relied on free or reduced-price lunch. They quickly learned about the amount of needs families in Newton had, including the summer camp scholarship gap. “School workers contacted us…we’ve enabled 80 students to attend camp over three years,” said board member Charlotte Dietz.

Dietz also said the school social workers, who work with these families year-round, have been very grateful for the donations.

“It makes a big difference in sustaining learning for the kids,” said Dietz.

Being able to attend high quality summer camps can help stem the summer learning loss that is particularly pronounced for low-income students, as well as providing needed childcare for families where the parents must work full time to support their children.

The Massachusetts Department of Education considers 13.4 percent of Newton Public Schools students to be low-income, which is about 1,500 children out of the total enrollment of 11,752, and there are other low-income families whose children do not attend public schools.

The City of Newton camp scholarship page estimates that a family making 30 percent or less of the median income ($44,450 for a family of four, about $21 an hour) would need to pay 90 dollars a week per student after the scholarship. This is out of reach for many, which is why Newton Neighbors has stepped in to assist. The city gave out $30,900 in scholarship money last year, but those funds are limited by the amount of federal grant money they receive.

Newton Neighbors is also still engaging in their work of helping provide food, particularly by getting volunteers to bring food from Newton’s three food pantries to households that do not have a car. They make about 150-200 drives a month. People interested in volunteering can sign up here.

“Scarcity is a big issue for Newton Neighbors,” said Dietz, adding that they also do a yearly diaper drive to help assist those who cannot afford this pricey but necessary item. Newton Neighbors is about three quarters of the way to their $10,000 goal (in part thanks to a $2,500 contribution by a local foundation), but they are still seeking additional support.

You can make a tax-deductible donation to them here. Please ensure contributions are in by April to ensure students are signed up for camp before the enrollment deadlines.

“The goal is to distribute every cent to students,” said Dietz.