Camp operator looks homeward for space No room available elsewhere in area

July 24, 1996|By Tanya Jones | Tanya Jones,SUN STAFF

For the second year, Edith Perry has rearranged the furniture in her Orchards at Severn townhouse to make room for the more than 20 children who are expected to show up this morning for her nonprofit organization's summer camp.

After the management of the complex repeatedly turned down her request for space in vacant townhouses, and real estate agents could not help her find space in nearby communities, Perry once again will open her home to the children.

"As a last resort, I'm back in my house," Perry said yesterday. "Of course, it's going to be crowded."

Three days a week, Perry, the children and six paid counselors will take over two upstairs bedrooms and probably spill into the living room and dining area downstairs for games, arts and crafts and activities to boost self-esteem. They will spend one day a week at a neighborhood pool and another day on a field trip.

She stored a twin bed in a closet under the stairs and moved her computer and desk into the living room to clear out what was her office. And she threw out an old mattress and box spring and put the rest of a double bed in the closet to clear the other room.

For Perry, the arrangement means breaking a promise she made to her husband of 31 years, Alfred Perry, a retired chemical operator. Though her husband is supportive of her, Perry said she promised him that she would find another location for her work with children, which included an after-school tutoring program this past year.

"I can't continue to use my home," she said. "I know I have said that a thousand times, but I have a mate to consider."

But she said she is determined to hold the camp, which could include 75 children by the end of the summer.

Perry, who has three adult children and helped raise her husband's now-adult children, founded the camp and its parent organization, People on the Move, to help the disadvantaged children in her neighborhood. Perry is not paid for her work, but People on the Move's $30,000 budget is funded through state grants and donations from private individuals.

Perry's space crunch is not unique in the community of mostly low-income and federally subsidized housing across Route 174 from Van Bokkelen Elementary School. Many community groups there need space for meetings and for operating their support programs, said Kathleen M. Koch, executive director of Arundel Community Development Services Inc.

The agency started meeting with groups last year to determine the community's needs and to work on a plan to address them, Koch said. The agency has begun speaking with the owners of Orchards at Severn and other neighborhoods about how space could be provided for community use.

Martha S. Poehler, vice president of Apartment Services, the management company that runs the Orchards complex, did not return calls to her office yesterday.

Perry is not waiting for the company or other property owners before she makes a decision. "What's important is the kids," she said.

Pub Date: 7/24/96

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