Friends, it’s the holiday season! Here at camp that means hunting, opening of ski resorts, Christmas break, and snow camp preparation. The end of the calendar year for many also means generosity. Unless you’re feeling Scrooge-like. If that’s the case, come to camp soon so we can help melt your heart! If you are feeling generous and interested in learning more about camp’s needs I wanted to make some known.
We are still looking for some funding of the annual budget. Specifically, $50,000 toward kids to camp and general operations (these are bills like insurance, facilities, and stuff we don’t ask campers to pay for). You could give to Kids to Camp through the Christmas program and if you’re a parent you can buy a session of camp through the Christmas program.
A chain saw that was in service for a long time has bit the dust. Do you have an extra one or one you don’t use much? Send it over here!
Also a canoe trailer! Have one? Know someone who does? We could use one for at least 6 boats (8 would be better).
If you haven’t heard about the camp’s path toward net-zero energy use we are currently tackling the heating portion of that through wood burning. The process is under way. In fact, here are some photos. We need to raise about $40,000 more at time of writing to finish this project.
You probably know that camp relies heavily on volunteer labor. In fact, there’s a group here right now from Towamencin Mennonite Church. Thanks guys! It looks like we have almost enough volunteers for the upcoming winter camps which is great. We are currently looking for help for summer camp 2018! Maintenance, Kitchen, Shepherds, Nurses: would you consider giving a few days or a week? If you have a family it can make for a meaningful (and cheap) family vacation as food and lodging is included. Learn more here.
Since we’re on the topic of summer camp, I should add that we need help finding male counselors. A Bethany Birches counselor is someone who has connected with God in their heart, listens to others, enjoys being outside and can lead the way in having fun! If you know a young man who meets this description please tell them about camp! All the summer job opportunities are here.
Feel free to write, text or call any time. Wishing you and yours the very best as this year ends and a new one begins. May you find God in the passing of the years and the newness of each day.
Summer and Winter Camps are the focus of Bethany Birches. A lot of people contribute to make camp happen. The BBC Board of Directors (BOD) is a group of 9 folks who think about the broader vision of BBC and where it’s heading into the future. Stacy Selbo is a member of the BOD. What follows are her reflections on how she got involved with BBC and what the Board is currently working on.
Our family moved to Vermont from Atlanta in 2004, and settled in Bridgewater in 2005. While we were active in our Atlanta church, our 3 boys also had meaningful, Christ-centered summer camp experiences from first grade until they could no longer be campers. We didn’t know what our Vermont experience would hold for our family spiritually, but shortly after being in the Woodstock, Bridgewater area, our youngest son had opportunities to visit Bethany Birches camp with the First Congregational Church of Woodstock Youth Group. We were thrilled to learn about this magical and special place just 15 minutes from our home!
Simultaneously, Amber (Cheeks) Bergey and I were involved in a women’s bible study with a small group from a variety of churches. It was a familiar connection and we stayed in touch. Then, I joined the Board in 2015.
The Board is active and meets throughout the year beginning with an annual retreat (January) to review and coordinate the direction of camp with Brandon. As a Board, our main focus is to consider the resourcefulness and sustainability of BBC, which continues to head in a very positive direction. Enrollment is up to nearly record attendance, thanks to proactive marketing and consistent fundraising. In 2017, BBC is debt free which is a remarkable accomplishment, with gratitude to Brandon for driving that goal.
While the Board continually reviews strategies, we are primarily focused and thoughtful about the spirituality that BBC represents and conveys to our campers – living the Mission.
I am especially thankful that an extraordinary camp like Bethany Birches exists here in the secular mountains of Vermont. What a special place for young people to learn about Christ!
We are very excited to be hosting the Jr and Sr classes of Woodstock Union High School this spring. Marcia Bender, director of the school’s Yoh Theater suggested this. After looking through some pictures and taking a tour the students and faculty decided it was a great idea! Imagine the prom here:
Lots of other folks have used the camp’s facilities too. From weddings and ski trips to family reunions private groups and families have made good use of the camp. Organizations and churches have been running their own camp programs here for decades. With Dale’s Lodge and the BBC Cabin you can even use the space as a small group of 2 or 4 or more. Consider utilizing the camp in this way. The pricing is hard to beat.
This summer was the most attended summer in the history of BBC. Praise God! We had well over 400 camper weeks throughout the seven weeks of summer. These high numbers required that we also have one of the largest staff teams in the camp’s history. Many different marketing events, individuals, and advertisements helped to make this summer’s registration so momentous, but I also believe that campers wouldn’t come (and keep coming!) if it weren’t for the ways camp impacts them.
Camp is uniquely powerful in the lives of children for many different reasons. One of the most important reasons, I believe, is the connection between camper and counselor. During the school year children spend 99% of their time with peers (fellow students) and with older adults (parents/teachers). Peers are easy for them to connect with, but often not much of a role model. Adults can be a great role model, but difficult to make powerful connections with. Young, maturing, 20-something counselors help bridge that gap. They are fun to be with and someone the campers can look up to. Many campers, in fact, realize that they too can grow up to be like these counselors some day. Liesl was an excellent example of that this summer. In the paragraphs that follow she shares her experiences this summer and you can see that while she made a real impact in the lives of her campers God also used BBC to make a real impact in her own life. – Dan “Chick” Laubach, Program Director
Einstein once defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
Working at camp involves a lot of repetition, and as someone who generally revolts against rigid routines, sometimes I felt like I was going crazy. But somehow, beyond all my expectations, God met me in the repetition.
I came to camp expecting that I would meet God in some life-redefining way. In fact, that was one big reason I initially hesitated about working at BBC this summer ― I expected that I would meet God in some big way, and I was afraid of finding him like that. Because finding God meant that I would have to own up to a lot of things, and I did not want to spend the emotional energy, I guess. But I did not meet God, not in the way I thought, anyway, which fit in so well with our theme of “Expect the Unexpected.” No, he did not revealed himself to me in some flashy Damascus road moment. Instead, he pulled me gently back to him, one small moment at a time.
Every week, I repeated the same advice to my campers, heard the same Bible stories, sang the same songs, cooked the same food, did the same activities.
I knew what was coming next. In the logistical sense, I knew exactly what to expect.
Now, when you do something over and over again, and know you will keep doing it over and over again, you have two choices: you can either jade yourself to what you are doing, or you can look for new threads of meaning within the repetition.
I found myself handing out the same advice to my girls this summer, different campers, different ages, different situations. I told them how important it is to learn to love yourself, because if you dislike yourself, then loving your neighbor as you love yourself quickly derails into a nightmare. And by the fifth or sixth time that I heard those words coming out of my mouth, I realized, hey, maybe I should give my own advice a try.
And maybe after the 50th morning of singing that all God’s critters got a place in the choir, I could remember that that meant me, someone who has felt on the outside for a while, not sure of her place in the choir or if she wants to sing at all.
And maybe by the seventh time hearing that God’s best friend Moses killed a man would it actually sink in that, hey, God might want to be best friends with me, too, someone who has not killed anything but maybe some mosquitos.
I usually look for God in the strange, unfamiliar places. I can see him working best when I am outside of my comfort zone. I like to go on adventures, push myself, find weird new places to explore, and hope to bump into God along the way.
But this summer, I learned to look for him in the small, quiet moments, in the spider crawling up my leg, in the curious eyes of children, in the encouragement of fellow staff, in the silly song lyrics.
God knows what we need more than we know for ourselves. He knows I can be skittish, he knows I am stubborn, but he also knows how much I delight in small moments of beauty, and he used that understanding to give me what I needed: a gentle push in a better direction that, with enough encouragement, will eventually lead me home.
As I have settled back into the repetition of my life away from camp, into my college routine, I catch myself thinking about camp a lot. I find I am craving the outdoors, craving rain showers and cast-iron griddles and grease fires and charcoal hand prints on my legs, craving the company of children, craving the peace I found on the hill ― these things that separately I can replicate anywhere, but that all together create something beautiful, something powerful, something unique to Bethany Birches.
I am so thankful for the opportunity to work at Bethany Birches, and I am looking forward to returning next summer, ready to embrace the unexpected from day one.
I’ve been reflecting on summer highlights lately despite the recent cold temps and skiing at nearby recently opened VT resorts and the 3 weeks of Day Camp was definitely a highlight.
Are there parents who will drive their kid to BBC each day for a week? Are 5 year olds old enough to cook meals over the fire and run around outside most of the day? Are there any past counselors who want to volunteer a week at day camp? Will daylong program aid in reaching BBC’s mission of helping young people develop their relationship with God?
The answers to the first 3 questions above seem to be a resounding YES! And hopefully as the years go on we’ll find the answer to the last question to be yes too.
Day camp returned to BBC in 2016 after a 12 year hiatus! 18 campers attended over the course of 3 different weeks. In 2017 that number climbed to 35 campers over the course of 3 weeks. Parents are willing to drive their kids up Lynds Hill for a daylong experience. One camper dad commented that he loves the fact that his son gets to spend all day outside. Another mom mentioned hoping this experience would prepare her son for overnight camp. A different camper parent was psyched she could jump start her son’s BBC experience as she has fond memories of her own BBC experience. And still another camper parent values the faith-based emphasis she always finds at Bethany Birches.
Each day camp week included traditional favorites at BBC. First time campers were exuberant to be eating ice cream out of the pig trough. Others enjoyed being launched on the trampoline or taking their first stab at kayaking. Campers also enjoyed activities that encouraged them to make new friends (silly songs and teambuilding games) and soak in the creation around them (cooking over the fire and swimming in the pond). Each week had a different theme (A Bug’s Life, Making Music and Holiday Roundup) to help focus the activities and lessons for the week.
All of the above contributed to fun for day campers but it’s the staff that determines the experience for the campers. Part of the successful return of day camp must be attributed to veteran staff volunteering to return to counsel the youngest of BBC Campers. Max “Nye” Halik who has served in the role of camper, counselor, volunteer and assistant program director over the past 10 years describes why volunteering at day camp made sense to him.
“As a counselor Mini Week (Launch half) was always my favorite week of the summer partially because you find that five-year-olds tend to be happy to do just about anything outside. One of the harder parts with that Mini Week was the “overnight” part – comforting little kiddos that found it difficult to get through nights without parents. When I heard that I could volunteer at Day Camp, I thought it would be an awesome opportunity to hang out with kids that still have that same enthusiasm for literally *every* activity, but could engage in bite-sized portions that wouldn’t be overwhelming. I’ll come back for Day Camp week any time – particularly as a volunteer it’s easier to take off a week of work knowing that I’ll be able to have fun-filled days with the happiest children you can imagine, with calmer evenings to plan out how we can share the word of God with his littlest children.”
Three sessions of day camp are in the line up for Summer 2018 with the hopes that more parents will drive up the hill each day to give their kids an outdoor, faith based experience with veteran BBC Staff.
The first (small) snow fell yesterday at BBC! The snow fell on leaf cleared grass, newly built pallets and freshly felled trees. Saturday Nov 4th was a busy day at BBC. Thirtyish folks came from Rutland, Bethel, Woodstock, Plymouth, Bridgewater, Brandon, White River, Randolph, etc to help BBC get ready for winter. A big thanks to all you from Calvary Bible Church who came and joined the fun!
Volunteers brought different skills. All brought smiles. Volunteers were different ages with different familiarity with BBC. Some were at BBC for the first time. Others were campers who were attending their first work day. And still others have been coming to BBC in some capacity for the last 50 years! Over the course of 6 hours the group raked ALL the leaves, cleared the garden, built a number of pallets and fell trees to clear space for pallet storage and pond beach expansion.
Each October I try to focus on the beauty of the changing leaves but always find myself distracted by the knowledge that all the leaves will drop. And then need to be cleared. And how exactly will that get done? Along with all the other pre winter work 100 acres of forrest requires?
And each fall a group of people show up to help. This year was no different. This year people joined in the leaf raking, pallet building and falling trees. God continues to bring people to do the work of God and I am grateful to be part of that.
I have some great news about the pavilion project: we have no debt! Thanks to Bob’s walk and a very generous donor we were able to pay off the last $100,000 of debt this fall. That allows us to focus resources directly toward program again and also start working toward the miscellaneous parts of the pavilion project we decided to phase to save money and time during the initial construction. Those remaining parts include a climbing wall, air exchangers, kitchen equipment and a wood boiler. The wood boiler is our focus right now.
Why a wood boiler? It can provide zero-dollar and net-zero emissions heat! Here in Plymouth, VT winters are cold! We also have lots of trees on the property. One of our foresters estimates we could cut 70 cords per year at a sustainable rate (in other words, the forest grows that much new wood each year). We estimate we will use 15 to 20 cords total for fireside cooking, other camp fires and heat. If volunteers continue to cut wood as they have for many years we can provide all the fuel needed to heat the entire facility for almost zero dollars (we’ll have to buy diesel for the tractor and gas for the chainsaws of course).
Utilizing plumbers, engineers and the latest trends in the wood burning industry we have designed a central boiler system that will heat the pavilion, cabin and a third building of our choosing at about 85% efficiency. By comparison, many wood heating systems operate from 50-70% efficiency. Not only will this system be very efficient when it’s operating, the wood we’ll burn will take very little energy to process (from tree to fire will take only two handlings, very little transportation and fossil fuel). On top of that we will be able to gently harvest the trees in our forest that are dying or in poor health meaning we get to use the carbon stored in the tree just before it dies and that carbon gets released anyway. In short, our process for burning wood can be considered carbon-neutral or net zero.
If you can’t tell, I’m very excited about this (and totally geeking out… sorry if you’re bored). For those of you who are excited with me, please consider giving toward this project. Our estimated cost for the infrastructure including foundation, shed, underground pipes to pavilion, boiler etc., utilizing a lot of volunteers, is $50,000. It would cost additional to install in the cabin and a third building. Any donated materials make this number smaller of course. Heating the pavilion with wood will save us about $7000 per year assuming propane price of $1.60. As prices rise and/or we heat more spaces our savings will grow. That means a pay back on the system of less than 7 years.
Please consider making a gift toward this important project. At time of writing $10,717 has been given toward the project. You could make a one time gift, or, perhaps you would consider making a monthly contribution for a year or two years. If 55 people would give $30 per month for two years, the project would be paid for! Consider it one way you can help the environment and young people at the same time.