By Jennifer L. Warren
NEWBURGH – Maritza Wilson has always deeply believed in two things: The power of writing and her unwavering faith in God. So, when she was challenged to create an alternative to the regular group-focused offerings this summer, it’s only natural, the two merged.
“Due to the Pandemic, the City Manager wanted us to create something different for kids,” explained Wilson, the Interim Director of the City of Newburgh Recreation Department. “I went home, and really thought hard about it, asking for God’s help, and then it came to me: Writing had always been a way to express my feelings as a kid, really helping me process things, so I wanted to do something with that activity to help youth cope with these times we are facing.”
Wilson’s brainstorming resulted in the creation of “Expression Packets,” complete with journals, drawing paper and writing tools. Younger youth could have the drawing /art packets; while the older children could express their feelings and thoughts verbally in the journals. The subject matter could be centered upon COVID-19, but it need not be.
Separate paper would also be provided for the children’s selected expressions for a journaling contest, whose winners would receive gift baskets, filled with dry erase boards, post-its, toys and other goodies. Wilson titled the event “Exploring Your Visions: Think it, Feel it, Write it.” In addition to the critical expression piece, she included further fun: a toy giveaway and health materials-resources from the Orange County Department of Health Community Health Outreach. Funding for the event was made possible from grant funds provided by The Newburgh Youth Bureau.
Selecting the healthy outdoor locale Downing Park for the event’s setting, Wilson, along with six volunteers, could be seen (wearing facemasks and socially distanced) behind a booth loaded up with an assortment of toys for children of all ages and Expression Packets last Wednesday morning. Smiling children approached the table, looking over and happily claiming, such items as; crayon packages, pink and purple long tubes of bubbles, foam gliders, funky decorated rubber ruler bracelets and a bug catching kit. Parents too were happy as well as grateful for the creatively designed outdoor option.
“Someone from the Youth Bureau told me about this event just the other day, and it sounded really interesting as a way of giving children something to do,” said a woman named Lisa, who had stopped by with her two children. “My kids were really looking forward to this once I told them about it and really loved getting their toys this morning.”
In addition to the entertainment of the toys and Expression Packets, there was an educational piece involving critical, kid-friendly, activity-packet presented information on COVID-19 and smoking.
“The Health Department is a firm believer in eating healthy and being active,” said Linda Jansen, one of the Community Health Workers on hand providing information. “This whole situation is really affecting kids mentally and emotionally, and doing some of these activities can be really therapeutic for them.”
Whether it’s getting a new, fun toy, receiving a journal or drawing pad to express their feelings in as well as enter a contest, obtaining materials to learn about some health issues, or simply being outdoors around other children, the “Exploring Your Visions” program at Downing Park could be just what you need: A wonderful, outdoor, fun break, spending time in a beautiful park. The event continues today (7/22), Friday (7/24), as well as next Monday (7/27), Wednesday (7/29) and Friday (7/31) from 9am-12 noon. Check it out, you are sure to walk away pleased.