Award-winning outlook

Longtime Bridesburg Rec summer camp director recognized for dedication to volunteering.

From l: Melissa Costello and Amanda Dodd take attendance at Bridesburg Recreaction Center’s Summer Camp. PHOTO COURTESY OF MELISSA COSTELLO

By Melissa Komar

For more than three decades, Melissa McAteer Costello has spent countless hours at Bridesburg Rec Center, first as a participant in programs as a youth, and now as one of the summer camp directors.

Many of those hours were spent volunteering to positively influence the lives of others.

And, while Costello, 39, is quick to downplay her service to the community, it hasn’t gone unnoticed.

Holy Family University announced March 27 Costello as one of the recipients of its Alumni Achievement Award.

“Holy Family University’s Alumni Association honors recent graduates with the Alumni Achievement Award, which is given to a graduate who displays great accomplishment(s) in one or more of the following areas: professional achievement, community volunteer service and humanitarian efforts. Through these accomplishments, these alumni bring recognition to themselves and to Holy Family University,” according to Julie Rempfer, assistant director of alumni and parent relations.

First awarded in 1979, “the Alumni Achievement Award is the most prestigious of the Alumni Association awards,” Rempfer added.

Nominations are submitted by alumni and members of the campus community, and recipients are determined by the Alumni Awards selection committee.

Costello’s husband, Vincent, who graduated from Holy Family in 1999, nominated her.

“I realized the impact I have on my husband even though I’m not home all the weekends I spend at the rec preparing for different activities. I saw where he would appreciate what I do,” she said.

Costello earned both her bachelor’s in math-secondary education in 2001 and her master’s in secondary education in 2003 at the university.

But long before Holy Family, the Mayfair native and Fox Chase resident began her education at Bridesburg Rec.

“I started there when I was 3. I went to preschool and started dance classes,” Costello said. “And, I just continued and at 6 I started camp and obviously I never left.”

From 6 on, Costello attended camp at the rec every summer until she was old enough to become a volunteer counselor in seventh grade, a program that still exists today.

“From there, I worked my way up to what I do now,” she said. “Along with the dance program, Chris McDade, the dance program director there, she did a musical production company and she asked me to help choreograph.”

Aside from running the summer camp program with two other women, including her sister, Costello is the treasurer of the rec’s cultural council, which oversees fundraising and designates how to allocate funds. It was initially created for the theater program.

Costello helped run the Company B theater program for almost two decades.

While the theater program no longer exists, Costello helps with the fundraising efforts of the rec’s annual Spring Show, with proceeds directly benefiting improvements and programming at the rec.

“We fund the programs that need things like gymnastics, upkeep of the rec, we put in a new stage floor, we put in a new kitchen,” she said. “This year’s money raised will be used to redo the actual gym floor.”

For Costello, the Bridesburg Rec has always been a second home.

“The rec center is like a family. Everyone that still works there, the majority of them worked there when I was a kid, so now I’m getting to work with them as an adult,” she said. “Everyone supports each other and works together in all the different programs.”

This past summer marked 26 years since Costello began working with the summer camp, and it never gets old.

“The people at that building are incredible, and everyone there gives so much time,” she said. “I’ve never lived in Bridesburg and I do travel to come there and I bring my own children to the rec because it’s like a family. It’s a great experience for my kids that I can now pass along to them.”

Costello has two daughters, 6 and 8, who both participate in the summer camp and dance classes.

“It’s awesome because their dance teacher is the same dance teacher I had and she’s one of my very close friends,” she said. “Just to see how much they love to go there as much as I did as a child is unbelievable. They think the world of the place as well.”

Aside from providing children like her daughters with lifetime memories, Costello hopes to pass along lifelong lessons.

“I just would like to see the kids want to give back as well and just to be a great person and care about other people,” she said. “We watch them grow through the years at camp and then bring them on as counselors. I just try to hope they are good people.”

Being recognized by Holy Family for this outlook and her time only solidifies her desire to give back.

“It was great to be recognized by Holy Family,” Costello said. “I really just like to help others and work with others and give back.”