Preparations for Thursday's lunch began on Wednesday evening for the Sunshine Girls. The group of women met at Janet Hershey's house to get to work on the lunch they were serving to 70 campers and counselors at Camp Pennwood on Thursday.
Hershey is 92, and has been serving a meal every summer at the camp since her son, Joey, was first a camper there 40 years ago.
Camp Pennwood is a summer day camp run through the Arc of York County for children age six to 21 with intellectual disabilities.
Parents of campers were in charge of all of the cooking for the camp in those days, she said.
"Years ago we had to do all of the dishes too," said Hershey. "We didn't use paper plates. Come to think of it, I don't know if they were even invented yet."
After the parents stopped cooking for the camp, Hershey worked with the York Optimist Club on the meal each year, but when that group disintegrated she began heading up the project with the Sunshine Girls, who are all members of the same Sunday School class at St. James Lutheran Church, 25 North Adams Street in York Township.
The other Sunshine Girls are Margaret Gross, 84, Rosemary Rafferty, 70, Gloria Becker, 80, Martha Nary, 80, and Judy Cooper, 68.
They have been calling themselves the Sunshine Girls for as long as they've been together, and exactly how long that has been - none of them are quite sure.
They cook one meal for everyone each summer, giving Camp Pennwood cook Rhonda Brookhouse a day off.
"It's great. They don't allow me in the kitchen," Brookhouse said. "They're a feisty group of ladies."
"They are a great group of women," said Hershey. "I'm the lucky one."
Once the baked beans, hot dogs, applesauce and homemade cake are served to the campers, the Sunshine Girls eat too.
"To be with a gang of women who are laughing, I just love it," said Hershey. "And Joey just loves it too."
Now that Hershey's son Joey is 49, he attends Pennwood Adult Vacation Experience, a week of day trips the Arc offers for adults with disabilities.
Although Joey, who has Down syndrome, was not at camp while the women were cooking this week, he is with them for their monthly breakfasts together and accompanies them when they play bingo with residents at the Lutheran Social Services Of South Central Pennsylvania on Kelly Drive and Sprenkle Drive.
"He just loves this gang of women, but he loves everyone," said Hershey.
When everyone finished eating lunch at Camp Pennwood, director Karen Price announced, "Hey ladies, the campers have something to tell you!"
A resounding "thank you" filled the building as the Sunshine Girls smiled at the roomful of happy campers.
"We have a lot of good help, and I think everybody is here because they want to be here," Price said. "When people say our next generation is not so good, the kids who volunteer here prove that wrong."
- Reach Chelsea Shank at 505-5432 or email@example.com