August 24, 2015
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Lots of Hugs Learning Center, recipient of a 2014 Foundation Grant, provided 105 children from low-income families with educational summer activities.​

As summer comes to a close and kids head back to school, one of their first assignments is to talk about what they did during their break.

Florida children who attended Lots of Hugs Learning Center’s Summer Reading Camp will have a lot to talk about. Their summer list included field trips to the Museum of Science and Industry, Lowry Park Zoo and Florida Aquarium in Tampa, Florida and Legoland in Winter Haven, Florida.

Lots of Hugs Learning Center is a recipient of a 2014 Southeastern Grocers Foundation Grant, and its summer program isn’t a typical camp. The organization, based in Plant City, Florida, offers constructive and educational summer activities to low-income area families who may otherwise not be able to provide activities for their kids during their time away from school.

The Southeastern Grocers grant money funded breakfasts, lunches and snacks for 105 campers, ages 5 to 12, through the 10-week program.

“Some of these kids only get fed when they’re with us, so they desperately need the nourishment to be able to function properly,” said Sharon Moody, Lots of Hugs Learning Center’s director. “I’m so thankful to Winn-Dixie for choosing us and helping us to provide two meals a day for the kids.”

Moody and her team have managed the summer camp for the last five years, and it’s grown every year. Lots of Hugs works with several community organizations to put on the summer camp. Representatives from the police department and local banks come in to talk to the kids, and teachers offer their time to help the campers reiterate everything they learned from the past school year and help further develop their reading skills.

Moody said one of her favorite parts of the summer camp is the feedback she gets from parents at the end of the program.

“I had one mother tell me her daughter was self-conscious, and especially struggled when it came to reading aloud in a group,” said Moody. “By the end of the camp, she was more motivated to read—really loves it—and stood with confidence while she read aloud. That is why we do what we do. We are cultivating the next generation to be the best they can be.”

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The Foundation grant money funded two meals a day and a snack for campers who attended Lots of Hugs Summer Reading Camp.

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Lots of Hugs Learning Center took their campers on a variety of educational field trips, including a trip to a Tampa Bay Rays baseball game.

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