ROCHESTER — As jump ropes slapped on blacktop and basketballs bounced off backboards June 29 in the parking lot of St. Andrew Church, Shakir Nesvitt stepped up to the free-throw line.
He eyed the basket and tossed the ball around in his fingers. With a slight bend of his knees, he recoiled and dropped in a free throw. He rebounded then dropped in another, rebounded and dropped in another, as if he had been practicing for this moment all his life. He later said that he plays basketball every week at the North Street Community Center.
“It’s my favorite sport,” the 12-year-old said.
That’s why when he passed by St. Andrew Church one day he was excited to see a sign for the parish’s free basketball camp, which was held June 25-29. At the camp, Shakir had the chance to show off his free-throw skills to several Rochester Razorshark basketball players who volunteered their time to help run the camp.
The parish, which is clustered with Church of the Annunciation, has hosted the free basketball camp for neighborhood kids for the past three years. The camp includes basketball clinics and activities and games for those who aren’t 8 to 18 or who aren’t into hoops.
Each day begins with a prayer and finishes with a meal, much of which has been donated by parishioners, said Amy Dorscheid, the youth minister and faith-formation coordinator for St. Andrew and Annunciation. This year, 110 youths participated throughout the week, she said.
For several years, Dorscheid said she had wanted to do a basketball camp to reach out to the neighborhood. When her daughter married Demond Stewart, a Greece resident who is a guard for the Rochester Razorsharks, Dorscheid brought up the subject with him. He enthusiastically supported the idea, she said.
“He’s ideal,” Dorscheid said. “His personality is so charismatic, and the kids absolutely look up to him and respect him. He’s been here every day for three years. He’s consistent, and he’s giving of his time.”
Stewart said he didn’t mind giving a little bit of his time to the camp.
“I thought it was a good cause, and it’s free care for the community,” Stewart said. “It gives kids here something to do for a couple hours.”
Other Razorsharks at the camp included forward James “Mook” Reaves, who played basketball with Stewart in college; guard Nigel Moore; and the team’s vice president, Chris Iversen.
Reaves, who used to live in the area, said the camp has been great fun.
“I’ll do anything to help give back,” Reaves said. “This is a great thing.”
Volunteers from the parish helped to set up and tear down the camp, which took place in St. Andrew’s parking lot. Lines for several basketball courts were made in chalk on the lot.
Camp participants also had the chance to take part for free in the Teddi “T” Sports Fest, a three-on-three basketball tournament July 14 that is sponsored by Camp Good Days and Special Times. The camp takes part in several outreach programs in Rochester as part of its program Partners Against Violence Everywhere, which aims to spread peace.
“The kids in this area and in the community need hope,” said James R. McCauley Jr. of Camp Good Days and Special Times. “They need something to believe in. St. Andrew’s is providing that.”
The parishes used money from a pasta dinner fundraiser for the basketball camp and an upcoming vacation Bible School. They also have received a grant from the diocese for their Bible school, which this year they are combining with a free hot dog roast to attract people from the neighborhood around the church. The Bible school and hot dog roast will be held from 5 to 6:45 p.m. July 16, 30, Aug. 13 and 27 at St. Andrew Church, 923 Portland Ave.
Father Michael Mayer, pastor of St. Andrew and Annunciation, said it is part of the parish’s call to reach out to the neighborhood. He noted that reaching out to the neighborhood has prompted the parish to expand its services, which include a food cupboard and a St. Vincent de Paul Society. Parishioners also go door to door to connect with people in the neighborhood, find out what they need and help make referrals.
“We look for an experience to bring the Gospel to people,” Father Mayer said.
The parish also is looking for ways to partner with suburban parishes, Father Mayer said. The men’s fellowship group from Church of the Transfiguration in Pittsford gave the basketball camp $500 to buy T-shirts for the kids, which bear the words “Holla, Holla Hallelujah.”
“If we can bring more people in from the suburbs to give us a hand with these programs, it will help us to do exactly what we are called to do as Christians,” Father Mayer said.
The reviews from kids at the camp were that it was both fun and helpful.
“It gives me a reason to get up and out of bed,” said Ryan Stewart, 17.
The camp gave Liz Marie Marciao, 13, a chance to work on her left-hand skills.
“I learned how to control my dribbling and defensive stance,” said Mykeisha Crawford, 13.
Ray Mack, 13, said he learned to slide and he learned better defense.
“It’s a fun place to be at,” said 18-year-old Jesus Rodriguez, who will be attending the State University of New York College at Geneseo next year. Organizers said he’ll return to the camp next year as a volunteer.
Volunteer Dominick Zarcone of Greece, who grew up on Mohawk Street near St. Andrew and still attends the parish, said he’s glad that kids are able to have fun in a safe environment.
“I can remember when adults reached out to me,” said Zarcone, 58. “They are going to remember this for the rest of their lives.”