F is for the Fresh Air Fund.
For anyone not familiar with the Fresh Air Fund program, it's a way for inner city kids from lower-income families to enjoy a summer vacation in the country.
I'd heard about the FAF for several years, especially through news articles in our local paper, but had never done anything about it. Finally, one year I decided to just go for it and become a host family.
Hosting a Fresh Air child is an easy and low-cost way to help someone in need. There are no costs to apply or to host...the only money we spend are gifts we buy or events and activities we take part in. To get started, I just visited the Fresh Air Fund website, and submitted an online inquiry. Immediately, a local volunteer got back to me to help me learn more. In order to host, we went through a thorough screening, which included:
- Criminal background check
- Community references (as I recall, a personal friend, work supervisor, and school official or clergy person)
- In-home visit, interview, and inspection
Once we made it through those steps, we were then asked about the child we'd like to have as a visitor. We could choose age and gender, and could also opt for a 2-week visit in July or a 1-week visit in August. Since my daughter is an only child, she thought it would be fun to have a "little sister" experience, so we chose a female in the 5 to 7 year range. And, our spunky, funny Fresh Air child came to visit!
Our first summer, we chose the 2-week visit, which we decided afterward was not the right option for us - it used up all of my summer vacation, and the kids tended to get on each other's nerves after the newness wore off. Our second summer, we chose the 1-week visit, which works well for us - I still get to take more time off for our "other" vacation, and everyone is still getting along by the time we say goodbye.
- Lots of swimming at Plunkett Lake in Hinsdale - beautifully clean and quiet.
- Lolling around at the luxurious Sand Springs Pool & Spa in Williamstown (they donate free admission to host families and children).
- Picnics anywhere and everywhere.
- Wading and exploring at Mount Hope Farm in Williamstown.
- Going to the Hollywood Drive-in.
- Hiking (nothing too strenuous!) nearby nature trails.
- Cooking! She loves to cook and usually helps with anything going on in the kitchen. She especially likes banana pancakes (as she says..."it's not like; it's LOVE") and Beach Bunny Cake from my Retro Beach Bash cookbook.
#1: The girls explore the pond near where the Fresh Air bus arrives in Bennington, VT. We have a picnic here (fried chicken, potato salad, deviled eggs, cake, and lemonade) before we get onto the road back to our house. This is also the place where we share the Welcome Bag - full of funny and playful things. Popular items are the fart putty, feather boa, and squishy gel things.#2: Getting the bacon ready to go under the broiler, while the banana pancakes are cooking on the griddle.
#3: The local Fresh Air kids got to march in the Williamstown 4th of July parade!
#4: The girls sitting on the Eyes on the lawn of the Williams College Museum of Art. (These eyes light up with purple lights at night - very cool!)