CAMDEN, NJ — Lifting Camden’s youth, the mantra behind LUCY Outreach, has never been more dire than during the COVID-19 pandemic, says Kristin Prinn, executive director and founder of the non-profit.
Based on Federal Street in the hard-hit East Camden, the organization has managed to continue serving hundreds of mentees - most in Camden city - by shifting its platform online.
Dropping off helpful supplies like toilet paper, healthy food and laptops has of course been one component, Prinn said. But equally important for the more than 250 volunteers that make up the organization, has been keeping the youth engaged while at home.
For one, taking advantage of a new Netflix feature to host “watch parties.” As well as connecting the youth to mentors, offering college prep, and leading scavenger hunts with the caveat that you can only search at home.
“We have maintained our full program schedule, but obviously it’s all gone virtual,” Prinn told TAPinto Camden. “We offer three to five daily opportunities for the youth to be involved and collaborate and have had great success so far.”
Prinn said it’s been “heartbreaking” to see the health crisis’ impact on the community.
“My heart goes out to our families going through a lot right now,” said Prinn. “I’d like them to know that we and other organizations in the city are here to support them in whatever way we can.”
For those looking to support LUCY Outreach in its mission, the non-profit will host its annual fundraiser for the first time online Friday at 7 p.m.
Typically, garnering roughly 350 attendees at American Water, Prinn said she hopes the shift to the web will mean attendees from outside the immediate community will attend as well.
“Many students don’t have access to the internet or computers, and like others, are missing out on their senior trip, prom and graduation. And all of LUCY’s seniors are first generation to attend college, receiving scholarships,” she said.
Speeches from senior scholarship recipients are on the docket, as well as celebrity shout outs from two-time Olympic gold medalist Carli Lloyd, Philadelphia Eagles Coach Doug Pederson, Villanova Wildcats coach Jay Wright, and others.
Assumption Sisters will honor the late Father Bob McDermott with the “Star of the East” award.
A virtual silent auction is also available, with plans to run after the fundraiser has concluded and as late as 10 p.m.
Prinn said she longs for the return of face-to-face interactions with Camden youth, recalling prior to the pandemic a three-day leadership retreat which included a trip to Princeton University and gallivanting the Franklin Institute.
“What’s been tough is canceling college campus visits. Providing these trips and overnights has been a big loss as far as youth opportunities,” Prinn said, noting she hopes summer programs also return with some sense of normalcy.
“I’d imagine as a teenager this is all very scary. They know us. They trust us. As an organization our staff members have been a big part of their lives," she said. "We hope by having us, something familiar and consistent, we are making the transition a little easier.”