Big Apple meets farm through Fresh Air Fund in Greencastle

Steve and Karen Long and their daughters welcomed Lia Chen into their home as a respite from New York City life for a few weeks. Pictured, from left, Heidi, Lia, Karen, Oivia (in front), Gwen and Charlotte.

Last year Lia Chen was on a farm for the first time. She had so much fun she wanted to do it again. The seven-year-old returned to spend two weeks with Steve and Karen Long, and their daughters Olivia, 10, Heidi, 9, Charlotte, 7, and Gwendolyn, 5.

Lia took advantage of The Fresh Air Fund, which provides free summer experiences to 4,000 New York City children from low income communities. They live with host families in 13 states and Canada. Lia, her sister, 9, and brother, 6, split up to go different ways during their summer vacation. She arrived at a drop-off point in Chambersburg on June 30, and got on a bus in Winchester, Va. on July 13 to head back home.

The dairy farm southwest of Greencastle was a fun place to visit. Lia especially liked feeding the calves.

“She really enjoyed that and stirring up milk for them,” said Karen.

The girls woke up early to help out in the barn, sometimes by 5:30 or 6 a.m.

“Once time it was 3:04,” piped Charlotte.

On her shorter visit in 2014, Lia remembered a trip to the zoo, and this year the highlight was swimming at James Buchanan High School during recreational hours. They also harvested fruits and vegetables from a relative’s garden.

“We went to pick blueberries and those yellow things,” said Lia, referring to onions.

She also peeled cucumbers, snapped beans and walked in the woods to find wine berries.

The children picked their chores every day. Lia folded laundry and washed dishes, but hadn’t chosen sweeping yet.

“She does a very neat job,” Karen remarked. “She jumps in and helps.”

A house full of girls meant talking and giggling and switching bedrooms regularly. Karen said every night was like a sleepover.

Charlotte again responded to the change of routine. “I had bad nights sleeping in the living room.”

Lia wouldn’t mind living on a farm, despite the flies and bugs that she didn’t appreciate. She said good-bye to rural Pennsylvania and went back to an apartment in New York. Her parents owned “a drink store”, she said. Her dad also worked at Pizza Hut and her mom in an office. Lia will be in third grade in the fall. She is hoping for a three-week stay with the Longs in 2016.