Faith in Action

The Kroc Krew

“When kids in the Camden, N.J., community turn 18, they typically come to us looking for their first real jobs, either full–time or during college breaks,” said Hillary Jones, education manager at the Salvation Army’s Ray & Joan Kroc Corps Community Center in Camden. “But most of them come with no experience working in a place like the Kroc. However, being part of the Kroc Krew gives them the necessary experience.”

Last summer, 35 Camden teens participated in eight weeks of training to become integral members of the Kroc staff. The teens, known as the “Kroc Krew,” performed various roles and responsibilities, such as assisting at the children’s day camp, helping with food preparation, and supporting music and art programs. They also learned valuable life skills, such as how to fill out college applications and to prepare a résumé.

Without such an initiative in Camden, children 14 and over are at risk of being left out of the typical summer camping programs.

“New Jersey gives vouchers to help pay for summer camp, but they are only for families with children age 13 and younger,” said Jones. “When your son or daughter turns 14, they’re too old to get the assistance.”

The Kroc Krew initiative helps to fill that void by giving local teens on–the–job training during summer months when they are out of school. The training also prepares them to later qualify for paying jobs at the center. They learn practical skills, teamwork, and most of all, how to care about the people being served at the center. “They’re the perfect age to be part of the summer Kroc Krew, and its free of charge,” said Jones.

A Season of Learning

Jones said many of the teens originally join because their parents are adamant about them having something meaningful to do during summer.

“But when they get to know the Kroc, become connected with the staff and with each other, we see a change in them. They go from having to be guided every step of the way, to being open about trying something new,” Jones said. “That new experience can be teaching a dance class, working with children, or leading devotionals.”

Most of the Kroc staff attend Salvation Army corps or local churches. Although some of the Kroc Krew come from Salvationist families, others come without any Christian upbringing.

“This opens up a lot of great conversations between the Kroc staff and the Kroc Krew,” said Jones. “Those interactions become ministries that teach patience, virtues, and lessons from the Bible.”

For many of the teens, the Kroc Krew has become more than a summer program—it’s a 2nd family. On the last day of summer, one girl cried and expressed how she would miss seeing the staff of the Kroc every day. Another young man who took summer classes at his school, wanted to be part of the Kroc Krew. Every morning, he would walk from his home to the center. At noon, he’d walk a mile to his school. After classes, he’d walk back to the center.

Dawn Garlic, volunteer services manager for the center, remembers the Kroc Krew’s last summer session. “They were all reminiscing about what went well for them and what they needed to improve. They were open to critiques and suggestions. That’s such an important quality to have when you enter the workforce,” she said. “Most of all, they took ownership of what they had contributed. They saw their own worth; what each of them meant to the Kroc.”

Lessons on Patience

The Kroc Krew return to the center on days they are off from school to volunteer and to continue their training. Garlic says that she looks forward to the Krew participating in more advanced tasks, such as holiday event planning and data entry.

Last Veterans Day, members of the Krew hosted activities for children in day care. Krew members came up with their own ideas.

For example, Kaseem Edwards, 17, taught a lesson in basic drum beats to kindergarteners and first-graders. He used drumsticks and plastic buckets as makeshift drums. “Summer with the Kroc Krew taught me that everyone has a different learning level,” said Edwards. “We’re not all fast learners, but we all can learn to work with everyone.”

Natalie Rubio, 14, said, “During one of the weeks, we had KeepSafe Training. We learned to work with kids and with vulnerable adults.” KeepSafe, designed to keep such adults and children safe from physical abuse and molestation, helped Natalie improve her communication skills. “Learning to speak to someone at their level was a big lesson.”

In a room with a sink and tables, Rubio, along with Henry DeJesus, 15, and Kaden Morales, 16, showed kids how to make “Oobleck,” a substance made with cornstarch and water. When held, it becomes soft and liquid. But when dropped or thrown against a hard surface, it becomes solid. Just the right mix of water and cornstarch requires careful measuring and lots of patience.

“Patience is not the easiest thing for teenagers to learn,” said DeJesus. “But with it, comes compassion for others. To me, that’s the most important quality to have here at the Kroc,” he said. “If you don’t have the will to help and to show compassion, then why even be here?”

Morales agreed. “That’s the purpose of the Kroc—to show compassion and kindness to every person who walks through these doors.”

The Krew may be a few years away from applying for full–time Kroc positions, but each of them already exemplifies a Salvation Army spirit.

by Hugo Bravo

The name ‘oobleck’ comes from the Dr. Seuss book, “Bartholomew and the Oobleck.” In the story, oobleck falls from the sky after a king wishes that something new would rain on his kingdom.

Make your own oobleck with the recipe used by the Kroc Krew.

Large bowl
Measuring cup
Food coloring (optional)

Step 1: Add ¼ cup of water (room temperature) into a bowl, followed by ½ cup of cornstarch. Pour the cornstarch slowly as you mix it with a spoon or your hand. You will know by the consistency of the oobleck if you need to add more cornstarch (it’s supposed to feel like syrup). Remember to keep the recipe 2–parts cornstarch, 1–part water.

Step 2: Add 5–10 drops of food coloring to the oobleck to get the desired color. Continue stirring it slowly until the drops have dissolved. Remember, even a few drops of food coloring can subtly affect how your oobleck feels.

Step 3: Now that the oobleck is a good consistency and color, grab a handful to see how it becomes soft and melts in your hand, or squeeze it to make it harden.

Step 4: Use warm water to clean the oobleck off your hands. If you let it dry, it turns into a powder that can be swept or vacuumed. Never let fresh oobleck go down the sink; it can clog drains.