Relatives Raising Kids program provides beekeeping experience for Tennessee youth

By: Brad Rowland

Between five and ten percent of youth in Blount County, Tennessee are being raised by a relative other than a biological parent. In response to that targeted needed, The Salvation Army of Maryville, Tennessee launched the “Relatives Raising Kids” program in 2019, aiming to provide educational experiences for local children while simultaneously acting as a respite for family members who are providing full-time care.

“Our Relatives Raising Kids program began with the goal of providing relative care givers respite through monthly recreational and educational field trips for children,” said Captain Kati Chase, corps officer. “The children enjoy getting to spend time with their friends and going to new and different places. Some will attend Camp Paradise Valley this summer.”

The outreach includes monthly outings focused on expanding the children’s horizons, with previous trips to the Knoxville Museum of Art and Zoo Knoxville, among others. In late May, Captain Chase, staff members and other volunteers, including a member of the Blount County Beekeepers Association, accompanied the youth to Howard Kerr’s bee farm and honey house.

Kerr, who is referred to as the “Godfather of Beekeeping” in the state of Tennessee, is a former three-term Tennessee legislator and the president of the Tennessee Beekeepers Association. The visit to the bee farm provided education on bees and pollination, with nine students ages 5-15 experiencing a new adventure.

For more than two hours, youth were able to engage with beekeeping activities, learning about the process, tasting the honey from the hive, and even operating in bee suits. This was aimed to establish a true respect for the role of beekeepers with regard to food supply, while also providing entertainment and a life-long memory.

While this is only one example of the work of the Relatives Raising Kids program, Captain Chase looks forward to continuing and potentially expanding the ministry.

“For the relative care givers, they enjoy the opportunity to just take a break,” Captain Chase said. “Currently, we can take 15 children on our field trips. In the future, we would like to expand this ministry to allow for more children and families to participate.”