Friendly Towns Hosts
Frequently Asked Questions
- What is the Friendly Towns Program?
- Who are volunteer host families?
- Who are Fresh Air children?
- Can host families request a Fresh Air child based on age and gender?
- Do children return to the same host family year after year?
- How are host families managed and supported locally?
- Why do host families enjoy the Friendly Towns program?
- What does The Fresh Air Fund provide?
- How do I sign up to become a host family?
- How can communities support the program?
What is the Friendly Towns Program?
The Friendly Towns program is The Fresh Air Fund’s legacy program. Each summer, thousands of children from NYC travel to visit volunteer host families for one week through ten days, or sometimes longer periods of time for returning children. The children travel to rural, suburban, and small town communities to embrace new opportunities and experiences.
Who are volunteer host families?
Host families come in all shapes and sizes; anyone with room in their heart and home is welcome to apply to host a child. Volunteer host families live in rural, suburban, and small town communities in 14 states and southern Canada. Volunteer host families can be families with young children, empty nesters, couples, or individuals without children- we welcome all family dynamics. Fresh Air host families come from different types of homes and neighborhoods, but they are all able to provide a safe and welcoming home and share the simple joys of summer in their communities with Fresh Air children. Every host family must go through a rigorous process, including a home safety inspection, an interview, a reference check and a background check, and must be able to provide the Fresh Air child with their own, real bed in a safe and loving environment.
Who are Fresh Air children?
Fresh Air Fund children are boys and girls, ages seven to 18, who live in New York City. The majority are from low-income communities. Fresh Air children are eligible to participate in The Fresh Air Fund’s free programs based on financial need and are registered by social service and community organizations in all five boroughs of New York City. Their parents/guardians register them for the program through community partners such as social service agencies throughout NYC.
Can host families request a Fresh Air child based on age and gender?
Yes, host families are welcome to invite a boy or girl between 7 and 13 years old for their first visit. We are also looking for host families who are able to welcome children with special emotional or physical needs.
Do children return to the same host family year after year?
Yes, many host families host the same child year after year and build relationships from summer to summer. Other families choose to invite a different child, and some children do choose to visit different families so they can experience different places. Any time a host family and a Fresh Air child want to continue to visit each other, they are able to do so.
How are host families managed and supported locally?
Host families are part of “Friendly Towns.” Friendly Towns are volunteer communities managed by a local committee or volunteer leader who promote the program, interview host families, and arrange all local details for Fresh Air visits.
Why do host families enjoy the Friendly Towns program?
Host families report that they enjoy sharing and rediscovering the beauty of their own communities and participating in an exchange of cultures and traditions.
What does The Fresh Air Fund provide?
The Fresh Air Fund provides transportation to and from Friendly Towns, on scheduled buses. If the timing of the local bus dates do not work for a host family, special transportation can be arranged but is generally the financial responsibility of the host family. The Fresh Air Fund also provides liability insurance and 24/7 support from social workers during the summer season, and covers any medical expenses that the child’s insurance does not cover.
How do I sign up to become a host family?
The first step to becoming a host family is completing this link. After you complete this form, one of our local volunteers will follow up with you to share more information and learn more about your interest in the program. Completing the form is a request to learn more- NOT a commitment to host. This volunteer will schedule an interview, where every family member and anyone else who will be spending a significant amount of time with the Fresh Air child must be present. You will complete a detailed application and background check forms, and the volunteer will inspect your home and complete a safety checklist. Finally, the volunteer will check 3 references for your family (with one being a professional who works with children).
How can communities support the program?
Local businesses are often willing to donate services that will help host families plan fun activities while they are hosting. Some businesses or local organizations plan and host picnics or parties. Anyone interested in supporting can reach out to their local volunteer or call the NYC office for more information. Please note, there are numerous volunteer opportunities on local committees that do not involve hosting, so if you are interested in being involved but not sure hosting is right for your family, please do reach out!