Who will help Edith Perry? Anne Arundel County: Camp for needy children in a Severn neighborhood needs a home.

July 25, 1996

IT IS A SHAME that Edith Perry again has to turn her Severn townhouse into a summer camp for more than two dozen kids. The community volunteer used her home last summer and promised her husband that she wouldn't do it again. But earlier this week, Ms. Perry moved a bed into a closet and cleared out her office in order to open a day camp that will run until the last week of August.

Ms. Perry is well-known in her Orchards at Severn community. For years, she has organized an after-school tutoring program for children in her poverty-stricken development, which was formerly known as Pioneer City. It sits across Route 174 from Van Bokkelen Elementary, the first suburban school threatened with state takeover earlier this year because of its poor achievement on assessment tests. Many of the neighborhood children have little to enrich them during the summer.

Rather than let school-age children idle away their time and get into trouble, Ms. Perry has organized visits to a county library, the Smithsonian Institution and the National Zoo in Washington. She and several other adults keep the children busy with arts and crafts, making ice cream and physical exercise. Her motivation is simple: "In the neighborhood that we live in, what children see is more negative than positive. I am trying to show them that they do not have to become involved in crime and drugs and alcohol."

In an age of relying less on government, Ms. Perry is an example of community initiative at its best. She formed a non-profit organization called People on the Move, secured grants and has a budget of $30,000. When she tried to rent vacant townhouses for her camp, however, landlords gave her the cold shoulder. Ms. Perry was not asking for free rentals; she was prepared to pay for the space she needed. She is no Johnny-come-lately to helping kids. Yet she seems to be without allies in her efforts to make a difference in these children's lives.

A little help from the right people would make a big difference to Ms. Perry. If her summer camp is still meeting in her house come this time next week, it will be a testament that Anne Arundel County and other levels of government are more adept at sweeping rhetoric about helping people help themselves than about acting to fulfill that philosophy.

Pub Date: 7/25/96

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