By Brie McGlone, 15
The soulful sounds of Willie Kitchens, Jr. and his band left Camp REACH supporters swaying in their seats and two stepping in the aisle at Hope City Church this month.
The group of about 40 parents, preachers, and poets gathered to raise money for CampREACH, a six-week summer program that assists students with academics, provides exposure to college and career opportunities and pays them up to $150 a week to learn.
“We don’t need a lot of people to get things done,” said Kitchens. “We just need people who are willing.”
Kitchens, the former lead singer of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame group The Impressions, was the night’s headliner. Performers also included spoken word by Woodmore Elementary Assistant Principal Luronda Jennings and musical selections by Camp REACH Musical Director Timiethea Delaney.
“The Camp REACH program is and will change the lives and destiny for those who are able to participate,” said Delaney, who hosted the program.
The mission was to raise money for the camp. It costs about $1,500 to cover the cost of one student during the six-week camp. The costs covers their $150 weekly stipend, training by certified teachers, and Olympic level athletic coaches. It also includes field trips to area colleges and lectures from speakers at the top of their career fields like Pinnacle Bank Senior Vice President Jimmy Moncrief who discussed money management during the camp.
Nearly no one remained seated during Kitchens’ concert. Lurone Coach Jennings danced with his daughter Luronda in the aisles, Camp REACH Executive Director Adrian Edwards raised his hands and bobbed his head while manning the door and about a dozen people formed a “love train” and danced around the church as Kitchens’ eight member band and three back up singers belted tunes like “September” by Earth, Wind, and Fire, “My Girl” by the Temptations and “Moving Forward” by Israel Houghton.
The concert was among several fundraisers hosted this month for the camp. The non-profit hosted a luncheon on Thursday, a camp sleepover Friday night and a car wash on Saturday.
“As a native Chattanoogan, I have worked with our youth for many years,” said Delany. “I feel this program will be a way of us reaching our children at a time that is most critical.