LUCY Outreach traces its early roots to the 1980s, when a group of local priests and nuns began to provide year-round educational and social opportunities for children in Camden, N.J.
From those early beginnings, the organization grew and expanded, restructuring in 2008 to further address the challenges facing the Camden community. This restructuring led to a new name, LUCY Outreach, an acronym for “Lifting Up Camden’s Youth,” named by the youth themselves, as well as new comprehensive and innovative programs.
“I started with the organization in 2007, and we embarked on a nearly yearlong process to put a strategic plan in place, revamp the program, and work with community partners and stakeholders to ensure the program continued to blossom into what the youth and families wanted it to be,” said Kristin Prinn, MSW, LCSW, Executive Director and Founder at LUCY.
“From there, we started to gain additional space on our campus in Camden and were able to expand our operations and programs,” said Prinn. “We used to have one full-time staff member who was supported by about 250 volunteers each year, and have since grown to about 10 full-time staff, supporting around 500 youth and families each year.”
The organization has continued to grow and expand the breadth and depth of its programs with the help of organizations like WSFS, which provided a multi-year grant to support the Afterschool program.
“Education and leadership development is just one of the key pillars of support for the WSFS CARES Foundation, and we’re proud to be able to work with organizations like LUCY to help develop future leaders,” said Vernita Dorsey, Senior Vice President, Director of Community Strategy at WSFS. “It has been a pleasure to work with LUCY to support the Camden community and witness the transformational impact they’re having on lives.”
LUCY’s Afterschool program provides support five days a week from September-June each year, and currently has about 75 active youth participants who attend sessions three times a week or more. The support from WSFS and others has helped to staff the program as well as provide pick-up and drop-off services, which has been increasingly vital due to changing school hours during the pandemic.
“We were the only organization in the area to stay open throughout the pandemic, holding programs in large outdoor wedding tents to keep the program up and running in a safe manner,” said Prinn. “The support we’ve received from donors has been crucial to enabling that, as well as expanding our offerings to include STEM lessons, culinary and kitchen safety skills, leadership development, team bonding, fitness, IT and design classes, and more.”
The organization also places an emphasis on diversity, equity and inclusion, including supporting LGBTQ+ youth through its program called House of Unity.
“We strive to ensure that we’re a safe space and a haven for students who may feel they cannot be themselves at home,” said Prinn. “Diversity, equity and inclusion are very important at LUCY, and when working with WSFS on the grant, it was evident that it was as important to them as well. We’re weaving inclusivity into all of our programs to ensure all voices are heard and represented.”
“It’s important to ensure our youth see themselves represented in important spaces, including among our staff, which is tri-lingual and made up primarily of alumni of our programs,” she added. “We encourage open and candid discussions and it has been great to see our students get involved in these conversations.”
“Fostering a spirit of inclusion and diversity is vital to the WSFS CARES Foundation, and working with community partners like LUCY enables us to support these important initiatives,” said Dorsey. “We look forward to the opening of LUCY’s expanded facility in the next few months as the organization continues to serve even more members of the community.”
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