Kayla Bell, 8, can’t wait to return to camp this year. That’s why a Feb. 23 fundraiser at Seekers Church is so important to her and other girls who attended a summer program called iThings 2 Collard Greens. IThings refer to things like cell phones and computers. The program was created last year by Kathy English Holt, after she attended a retreat while recovering from a health condition. Holt said she was reading a book about Nannie Helen Burroughs at the time. “I could feel Nannie Helen Burroughs telling me to take girls to the retreat center because there is still a need for life skills training,” Holt said.
Holt established a six-week camp and retreat that includes etiquette training, affirmations, meditation, nutrition, sewing and knitting, among other topics. “They learned to work in teams and they also got to learn about African-American women who made a difference in the lives of other women,” Holt said.
The girls are exposed to the teachings of women like Burroughs, Mary McLeod Bethune, Dorothy Height and Maggie Lena Walker.
The retreat was very hands-on. “Every day, the girls helped to cook, went to the chicken coop and got the eggs out and got the food from the garden,” Holt said. “We live in a whole different time now, so they are not exposed to the things I was exposed to as a child.”
Kayla Bell’s mother, Marie Mills, was a camp volunteer last year. “Kayla learned a lot. She learned how to plant and grow cotton,” Mills said. The camp’s name is a way to show how young people can “drop the phone,” as Holt says, and “go back to basics.” Mills said by the end of the camp, the girls showed care, compassion and concern in all age groups. “It taught them how to become closer as women,” she said.
The fundraiser is 5:30 – 8:30 p.m. at 276 Carroll St. N.W. near the Takoma Metro station. Holt’s son, jazz musician Corcoran Holt, is scheduled to perform. Admission is $20. Call 202-368-8721 or 202-256-2518 for tickets. The camp takes place at the Davis Center on Third Street, N.W. in the Brightwood neighborhood. The retreat is held in South Carolina.