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Empower Me campers learn about law enforcement

Jacob Smith • Jun 22, 2018 at 5:56 PM

Campers at the Empower Me Center’s Day Camp had a unique opportunity as Federal Bureau of Investigation and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agents came out to show them a little about what they do.

The summer camp is a program for individuals that range from 5-34 years old with mild to moderate physical, developmental or mental disabilities.

The FBI’s Evidence Response Team demonstrated evidence recovery techniques such as recovery of fingerprints and use of the alternate light source.

Campers got to see the FBI robots in action, try on SWAT gear, participate in analytical exercises with the FBI’s intelligence team and visit with the ATF’s K-9 officer.

Empower Me executive director Michelle Hill said the idea to have the agents come to the camp began with a speech she gave at the Lebanon Rotary Club.

“A representative with the FBI was actually in the audience,” said Hill. “She had just come, she wasn’t actually a member yet. She went back and told her boss and her boss’s boss, and the next thing I know, they asked me to come down and share with them our story. And from that, they just really wanted to get involved with us.”

 Hill said each week of the summer camp has a theme, and this week’s theme is superheroes.

“We are so grateful to the FBI and ATF for coming out and sharing their expertise with our kiddos, and our kids in turn, get to share their gifts and talents with them,” said Hill. “We’re excited to have them here and be a part of superhero week. In our kids’ eyes, they are the true superheroes.”

With more programs coming to the Empower Me organization, there are also plans for expansion.

In November, Empower Me announced it had closed on 25.45 acres of land on South Hartmann Drive.

“We couldn’t be more excited or more thankful to everyone who has helped us get to this point,” said Hill. “It’s the first of many dreams we know will come true.”

What started in 1999 as a summer day camp for children with disabilities at the James E. Ward Agricultural Center has grown into a vision of Empower Me’s to have its own home. As the needs of the Empower Me’s families have changed, the nonprofit organization has adapted and changed its services. Having a home of its own in Wilson County will allow the group to work toward meeting the current, as well as future, needs of its families. For example, last year it turned away 150 families who wanted to participate in a summer camp program due to lack of space.

Empower Me plans to use the 20-plus acres of land on South Hartmann Drive to build a community recreational building, a recreational sports complex and independent and supervised living cottages all geared to meet the unique needs of individuals with a variety of disabilities. Hill said the building will allow Empower Me to increase its enrollment four-fold during the summer, have year-round recreational programs for adults, offer continuing education classes and courses to health care and education professionals, as well as individuals in the community and more. It will also be a place to rent out. The recreational complex will consist of a splash pad, playground, a Miracle League baseball field, soccer fields, a Garden of Dreams with outdoor musical instruments and an outdoor covered sports court. There will also be 16 cottages for independent living once the main building is built, according to Hill.

Anyone who would like to learn more about Empower Me or how they can get involved may visit empowermecenter.com.

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