Disciples News Service

Ohio congregation hosts summer arts camp

Carthage Christian Church has long been active in their community, a working-class neighborhood in Cincinnati, OH. Still, says pastor Rev. Alan Dicken, “we wanted to see if there was more we could be doing to love our neighbor.”

So, earlier this year Carthage conducted a community listening campaign and found that there was a real need for more constructive youth programs. “We knew we didn’t have the resources to provide for these needs on our own,” Dicken explains, “But we took stock of what we could provide: a free location to host events in the neighborhood, and a deep connection to the people who call Carthage home.”

With these important gifts to share, Carthage looked for ways to partner with other organizations to fill this need. “Through outreach, networking, being open to meeting new people in roles outside the church – and let’s be honest, some good God timing,” Dicken remembers, “We were able to connect with the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music (CCM), one of the premier music schools in the country.”

Together, the organizations developed an idea for Camp HeARTbeat, an arts program to provide healthy growth and learning through arts projects. In March, they were awarded $35,000 in grant funding from the University of Cincinnati’s health initiative.

Carthage and CCM quickly got to work. CCM recruited instructors and brought instruments and other art supplies, and Carthage CC promoted the program across their community.

Knowing the neighborhood has the highest percentage of Spanish speakers in Cincinnati, Dicken says, “We knew it was important to reach out to our neighbors who come from Central and South America and now call Carthage home.” Congregation members passed out flyers in English and Spanish, went to summer block parties, spoke at civic league meetings, and shared the information with immigrant resource workers.

Earlier this month, their efforts culminated with a weeklong Camp HeARTbeat for 20 children, ages 8-13, from all around Carthage. With grant funding, they were able to offer this program for free, provide free breakfast, lunch, and snacks to all participants, and arrange for teachers in drama, dance, music, and visual art. The week ended with a grand finale performance by the participants for their friends, families, and neighbors.

Watch this short video to see what Camp HeARTbeat looked like.

With the first camp complete, Carthage CC hopes to continue this partnership into the school year with an after-school arts program and recruit more neighborhood business and organizations to join in the effort.

“We are so excited to have our church be a place in our community where all children are welcome to come, laugh, play, eat, and have a chance for artistic expression in their lives,” Dicken celebrates.

“None of this would be possible without partnering with CCM, applying for grant money, and working with local immigrant services. Of course, really none of this would have been possible without the grace and vision granted to us by God.”