Jane Megginson, Camp Program Manager
The BYM Camps—Shiloh, Opequon, Catoctin and Teen Adventure (TA)—had a great 2015 season. For the third year in a row we are at a high of camper weeks enrolled- this year, we tied last years number of camper weeks (1388), which exceeded (just barely) the former high in 2013 (1386). In other words, enrollment continues to be good. We always have some areas we want to improve and the Camping Program Committee, Directors, and I continue to explore ways that we can improve enrollment and ways we can strengthen camp overall.
One of the ways we are improving camp overall, and the Yearly Meeting and camp families can help, is the kick off of our new Greening Campaign! We have started raising money to work on the exciting multi-year projects to improve our facilities in much needed areas, and as we improve them, we are working sustainability into our plans. Our first project, construction starting at the end of camp in 2016, will be a new bath house at Catoctin. The new bath house will include composting toilets, as well as a higher, airier ceiling to improve light and air quality, and doors on toilet stalls! In addition, the bath house design will include 2 private shower/toilet rooms that are gender neutral and accessible, as part of the design.
Future year plans include new Opequon bath houses, overhauling the Shiloh art pavilion, and some improvements to the BYM Office in Sandy Spring. Please join us in supporting this effort to update our facilities and build in some teachable/usable environmental improvements as well.
Diversity and Inclusion
Our residential camps are making great headway and average 30% campers of color compared to the first year we started collecting this data in 2008 when only 17% of our residential campers were of color. At Teen Adventure, only 16% of our campers are of color, up from 13% in 2008. Clearly we have a long way to go with TA, and some more work to do with our residential camps, including increasing the presence of staff of color. Fortunately, a lot of hard work by the Camp Working Group on Racism, along with a lot of other individuals in the Yearly Meeting has paid off and we have received a very generous grant from the Shoemaker Fund to help us fund a full time person to work on creating a more inclusive Yearly Meeting stemming from the work we have started at our camps. The new position, the Outreach and Inclusion Coordinator (OIC), will start this Fall to continue the efforts begun at our camps to reach out to campers that are generally underrepresented and work with volunteers to spread this intentional work throughout our camps, and our Yearly Meeting. I am so excited that the hard work of so many people has paid off to take this program to the next level. I cannot wait to see what our new OIC person can do when able to focus on this effort full time, and to see what the members of our camps and Yearly Meeting will do with this great opportunity!
I spent a tremendous amount of time this past year switching the camper database from a local server based database to a cloud based system. Along with that I had the opportunity (and the pitfalls) of designing a new camper registration system. Most of you will experience this change if you register campers or sign up for a work grant at camp. I was able to make some improvements on our previous registration system and found that some of the choices I made and some of the things our excellent camp database company, CampBrain, promised were not ready yet. So there is more tweaking to do. Overall, though, there were more improvements and potential in this new system. Some of the things that I am excited about:
- Directors can now access the database and look up information about campers, camper families, and medical information wherever they have access to the internet. In the past, only the office staff had access to camper data.
- The camp medical staff can track which camper needs medication at what times using database reporting.
- This year staff applications and staff form management will be accessible to our directors online.
- Most of the forms – medical, financial aid, releases – are all done online now and thus can be stored with each camper record online (camper medical and release forms need to be stored and accessible for 17 years for legal reasons).
- Having forms accessible online means we no longer need to mail out packets to all camp families, saving paper, postage, and time.
- The new database has simplified the process of emailing camp families.
There are other benefits, but these are the ones that spring to mind. Thanks to the camp families for being patient with some of the bumps and being willing to learn a new system and give feedback to help improve it! I am going to Toronto this fall to attend a conference for CampBrain users to help me and help CampBrain improve the system even more.
The BYM Camps provide a service to the young people of our Yearly Meeting by giving them an opportunity to seek meaningful work, often a first job, doing something they love, with a great group of peers. The work is demanding and rewarding. Our staffers carry a tremendous amount of responsibility for the physical, mental and spiritual care of just under 600 campers. They learn a lot, they grow a lot, and they give a lot. Every application is reviewed. The top candidates are interviewed and new hires reference-checked. In 2015 BYM Camps employed 134 summer camp staff, 39 of whom were new. That is a lot of interviewing! The new hires all get two references checked, and get background checks performed. Most arrive at camp two weeks before the campers to start training for their new job. Our camp directors interview, hire, train, and supervise all of their own staff. You know that old saying, “Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did, only going backwards and in heels”? Well that kind of puts me in mind of what our Camp Directors do – they hire their entire staff and get prepared for camp while working full time at their other jobs. Any time I stop and reflect on how committed and passionate about their work our staff are, it moves me profoundly. (I just paused a few moments and reflected on that). In this space of reflection and gratitude, I want to thank all of the counselors and staff who work extremely hard to make our camps the safe, growthful, challenging, encouraging places that they are.
The 2015 camp season was the last for Co-Director of Catoctin Quaker Camp, Kathrin Gilbert. Kathrin has Co-Directed Catoctin with Dyresha Harris for the past 4 seasons – how time flies. Please join me in thanking Kathrin for her hard work at Catoctin for BYM. Kathrin is moving on to complete her MA and pursue year round work in her field.
While I am thinking of people and efforts to be grateful for, I want to thank all of the folks that participate in the work grants that make our camps run. Thanks also go the Camping Program and Camp Property Management Committees and all of the other Committees of the Yearly Meeting that help support the camps – Trustees, Supervisory, Stewardship and Finance. I don’t want to forget all of the contributions that the year-round BYM office staff make to help keep the camp juggernaut running smoothly. Mostly, I want to thank all of the parents and campers that choose to come to our camps year after year and the members of the Yearly Meeting that believe in what we are doing and support this program!
Action Item Opportunities:
- If you are interested in the work of including more people from underrepresented groups in BYM Camps and in the Yearly Meeting, contact the new Outreach and Inclusion Coordinator to welcome her to the staff and ask some questions. Think about inviting the OIC staff to your Meeting or find out what you can do to help with this important work – at your Meeting, in the Yearly Meeting, or at your Camp!
- Think about how important BYM Camps are to you and your family, and/or how important sustainability and efforts to make less impact on the earth are to you and make a donation to the Greening Campaign!
- Thank a BYM Camp staff person for their hard work in sharing BYM’s message with youth.