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Firemen help send kids to arts camp

Clayton County Fire and Emergency Services Deputy Chief Jacque Feilke (from left) Capt. Walter Barber and Asst. Chief Landry Merkison (second from right) presented Arts Clayton Executive Director Linda Summerlin (center) and summer Camp Administrator Elizabeth Gower (right) with a check to cover summer camp scholarships for four children Thursday.

Clayton County Fire and Emergency Services Deputy Chief Jacque Feilke (from left) Capt. Walter Barber and Asst. Chief Landry Merkison (second from right) presented Arts Clayton Executive Director Linda Summerlin (center) and summer Camp Administrator Elizabeth Gower (right) with a check to cover summer camp scholarships for four children Thursday.

— Four children will get the opportunity to learn artistic skills this summer because of a financial donation made by Clayton County firefighters.

The children, two from elementary and two from middle school, will have opportunities to sing, dance, act make sculptures and paint pictures at Arts Clayton’s summer camps. These are opportunities they may not have otherwise had because of financial issues, said camp administrator Elizabeth Gower.

“I had a mother crying on the phone when I told her that her child was going to be able to go to camp this year,” said Gower.

Assistant Chief Landry Merkison, Deputy Chief Jackie Feilke and Capt. Walter Barber presented a check for $1,140 on behalf of its Clayton Fire Charities Foundation to Gower and Arts Clayton Executive Director Linda Summerlin Thursday. This is the second year the foundation has made a scholarship donation.

The money, Merkison said, will pay for scholarships to help the students participate in the Kaleidoscope and Young Teen camps which begin June 3 at James A. Jackson Elementary School.

“It’s important that we give children in the county the opportunity to go to these camps and programs to help enrich their lives,” Merkison said. “We know that not every family can afford to send their kids, so that’s the foundation of what we do. Our motto is ‘Helping others has always been our purpose.’”

Merkison said Clayton County Fire and Emergency Services, through its charity, supports many of the programs Arts Clayton stages.

“It’s something we like to do,” Merkison said. “This is kinda why we started Clayton Fire Charities, to help not only Arts Clayton, but other charities located within the county including Rainbow House and [Clayton County Department of Family and Children’s Services].”

The fire department also sends an engine crew to the camp every year to give presentations on fire safety.

Summerlin said scholarships are important to the summer camps because many children come from families who can’t afford them otherwise. She and Gower said scholarships are handed out as soon as money becomes available because there is a high need.

The Kaleidoscope camp for elementary school children costs $195 per child with a $20 discount for siblings. One class in the teen camp costs $200 while two classes costs $375.

Recipients are picked based on letters provided by parents, grandparents or teachers to explain the need for a scholarship. Arts Clayton officials then try to pick only children in genuine financial need.

“The bottom line is we never have enough money to do the scholarships,” said Summerlin. “We can’t tell you how many scholarships we’ll do this year because we don’t know yet. We’re a couple of weeks out and we’re still soliciting scholarships so hopefully we’ll get more. The minute we have money in hand, she [Gower] already knows where it’s going. She has people waiting.”

Gower said she may have about 10 slots left to fill in the Young Teen Camp and up to 30 spaces left in the Kaleidoscope Summer Arts Camp, which is for elementary school age children. She said space is dependent upon the classes still available and the interests of applicants.

Call Gower at 770-473-5775 to register children for camp or to make a scholarship donation.