Handbells, drama part of church's summer camp

Mount Zion United Methodist's summer art and music camp has almost tripled in size since it started three years ago.

"Parents are looking for affordable things for children to do," said Marcy Mittelstadt, director of music ministries at Mount Zion. "We do it as a community service, as an outreach for us."

The free camp in July is open to 40 children this year, up from the 14 who attended in 2008.

At past camps, children have tie-dyed T-shirts, made collages and learned songs from around the world.

"I love that they are learning while having fun," Katie Griffith, the mother of triplets who have attended the camp, wrote in an email. "The staff and volunteers are wonderful. The kids couldn't wait to go every morning."

In past years, Mittelstadt said, she has based the camp on a musical and on a program focusing each day's activities on a different country.

Mittelstadt said she is doing something new this summer, adding new elements as volunteers have brought new talents to the program. This year's camp is called "Sing, Ring, Create and Play."

This year, children's handbells - "real handbells, not the little colored ones," Mittelstadt said - will be a key part of camp. Much of the music has been chosen because it can be accompanied with simple handbells.

The camp will also feature drama this year. Drama helps kids become more comfortable, she said.

"It's just fun, and music and drama give those kids confidence with themselves," she said.

Mittelstadt and a group of volunteers, including an art teacher from an area school and a teacher with a background in education, will run the camp.

Each day will begin with a gathering time for campers and volunteers, followed by art, devotions, reading, snacks and drama. The days will end with games and recreation.

Campers will perform something they've learned for parents on the last day of camp, and for those who can attend, on Sunday morning at the Mount Zion church worship service.

The camp will be from 9 a.m. to noon July 12-16 at Mount Zion United Methodist Church, 19600 Zion St., Cornelius. It is open to rising first-graders through rising fifth-graders, and campers do not have to be members of Mount Zion church to attend.

To register, email Mittelstadt at or call her at 704-895-8566.