PERRYVILLE — It was a family reunion of sorts when members of the Outreach Program returned Sunday for hot dogs, hamburgers and fun.
Danielle Hemling, director of the youth program sponsored by the Perryville Police Department, enjoyed watching the kids reconnect after being away since March when COVID-19 shut down the after-school program.
“This time of year we’d normally have our end-of-the-year barbecue,” Hemling said. However over the past several months her conversations with the elementary, middle and high school aged members has been from a distance through Facebook, InstaGram and email. She enjoyed watching the kids arrive and seek out friends and resume what had been their normal routine.
“Miss Danielle can we play basketball?” one group asked. Another group got a game of catch going with a football and several members of the police department.
“It’s great that they have that connection,” she said.
She has continued to host the OP’s life skills programs using Facetime and she and her staff have been collecting and delivering groceries to those shut in by the novel coronavirus, especially the town’s senior citizens.
“It’s just been a different learning curve for everyone,” Hemling noted. “But nothing beats being face to face.”
Perryville Outreach Program will resume operations July 1, operating Monday through Thursday only and from 10 a.m. until 7 p.m. each day. In the summer months Hemling said many of the kids come in and out throughout the day so she expects no problems with her capacity of 30-35.
“A red flag outside means we’re full,” Hemling said of the notification system she devised. “Parents should call first.”
The usual precautions will also be in place.
“There will be temperature checks and COVID questionnaires for parents and lots of hand sanitizer,” she said. Masks will be required indoors, but not outside. Lunch will not be served however on Monday and Wednesday there will be dinners to take home.
Right away she said they will return to a schedule of life skills, community service and water play, but slowly to get everyone back into the groove. Meanwhile Lt. Bob Nitz is planning another “Fishing With the Fuzz” event. The inaugural in 2019 was very popular. He’s looking for a fishing spot without the pitfalls the young anglers suffered last year in Ice House Park. There were a lot of lines lost in the rocks and vegetation at the shoreline.
For Hemling, just being able to talk about planning was satisfying after weeks of being separated.
“I’m excited, I want them back,” she said. “I miss the kids.”