Wednesday, February 23

Chip Shop

oh-kay - how to tell this without massive backstory...

JIFF is an afterschool program on Thursday nights at Centenary UMC.
JIFF stands for Juniors in Fun and Fellowship.
Neighborhood kids K-8th grade come 5:30-7 and have game room, bible study, special speaker/craft/etc. AND minute-to-win-it challenges or computer games.
I volunteer for JIFF.
My mom is the director (thus the initial reason I began to volunteer for JIFF).
My sister Denise and nephew Jack (of Basketball Story fame: ) run the minute-to-win-it weeks. I try to keep the computers working.

Enough back story. On to chip shop.

When we began this year of JIFF (school out - we out...even grownups need summer vacation) the volunteers met for brainstorming, planning and prayer about the upcoming year. I wasn't really sure whether I was going to share the wacky idea I had rolling around in my head - but I did.

My idea was to reward the kids for good behavior instead of trying to punish bad behavior. We would have some sort of marker that we could give them for doing something well or participating. Those markers would give you points you could spend in a shop once a month. The brainstorming commenced!! We debated what sort of things you could get a chip for, whether they could be taken away for bad behavior, what kind of things would be in the shop? How many chips could/would the kids earn in a month? Was once a month often enough? Too often?

It was a great time of thinking and sharing - I had my mind changed a couple of times and asserted my thoughts a couple of times. And "Chip Shop" was born. And it works!

The kids get a chip when they arrive each week. They have to be on time and sign themselves in. The chips are indeed poker chips. They are very nice poker chips - with no cards or gambling insignia on them. I got them from and got a color that you couldn't go get at Walmart. This year they are edged in purple. I like them very much. And so that I didn't have to invest in thousands of them - the kids bank their chips at the end of the evening each week. I have a ledger with a sheet for each one. Last name first, all official like.

Each of the group leaders and teachers get a handful of chips that they can choose to give out at their discretion. Sometimes chips are the reward for accomplishing one of those minute-to-win-it challenges and sometimes they are the prize when we play bingo. And sometimes they get a chip for being helpful or polite. Most weeks kids bank 3 or 4 chips. And no - since chips are earned - they cannot be taken away. And that was one of the things that most impressed the kids - I think sometimes things are taken away from them without good reason. Sometimes for no reason at all.

And then there is Chip Shop night. These kids do some shopping!! What's there? Everything from candy to school supplies to lip balm. The most popular item? Ring pops. 1 chip. I shop for most everything at the dollar store. Ring pops come 4 in a pack. I've gotten pretty good at deciding how much things cost in the chip shop. If I can get it for a quarter, it's 1 chip. If I can get 2 for a dollar then 2 chips. Randomly donated items are usually 2 or 3 chips, especially school supplies. Once you get up to 3're talking serious stuff. This is usually stuff that I've spent the whole dollar on. Box candy (like the ones that cost 4.50 at the movies), locker dry-erase boards, craft projects. 4 chip items are almost always donated items - nice stuff. Umbrellas, gloves, needlepoint/rug hooking/paint by numbers.

There is even the incentive to save for a BIG item: currently the big stuff is adventures. Save up 25 chips and you get to have a cooking/eating evening during JIFF, or go out to dinner with two of our adult volunteers (Safe Sanctuary!!). Maybe a bowling or ice skating adventure.

The first night of chip shop, almost every shopper spent their entire balance. They had a great time and shared their bounty with each other. And we still have folks that spend their whole account (no going into debt though - this isn't the Railroad company store!). But we're getting quite a few who like the idea of saving for something cool.

As a matter of fact - if you've got something cool that you want to donate...let me know!

So - why do I write about all this tonight? Well - tomorrow night (Thursday) is Chip Shop and tonight I went chip shop shopping. By the way - if you're looking for a really clean and attractive dollar store in the Lynchburg area - go to the location in Madison Heights in front of Walmart. I had a GREAT time!! I found a lot of nifty stuff and can't wait to see the shoppers enjoy themselves tomorrow. And yes, I got the ring pops. 24 of them. I hope it's enough!

Hamster enjoying Chip Shop Eve!

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