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.
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.
This year brought the 15th Annual Benefit Auction. This particular Saturday was abnormally warm. A perfect match for the abnormal generosity at the auction. We started out with Larry’s syrup. Each quart sold for $400! That’s abnormal.
Did you know that in the first 14 years of the auction the event has raised $400,000 to help make the Bethany Birches Camp experience accessible to all? This year’s event continued that trajectory! $51,042 was the total given during the auction this year thanks to many generous donors (both items and dollars) and a friend of camp who matched item #50 (Camperships) with $10,000! You can see the live bidding items and sale amounts here.
People coming out to the auction included friends as close as a stone’s throw from camp and more distant attendees from VA and PA and other nearby states.
One of my favorite things was seeing a few campers so excited to help that they waved items they were displaying and even danced a bit!
Please mark your calendars now to attend the 16th Annual Benefit auction scheduled for September 29, 2018!
Thanks to Erin “Tye Dye” Dye for this guest post. Tye Die is the camp shepherd this summer:
Thursday evenings this summer have been an opportunity for holy moments. Counselors have gotten to know their campers really well by the 5th night, campers submerse in good vibes from the week and excitement to go home, and for our worship times, this evening is a chance to have an “a ha” moment with the theme and how it relates to their own lives. During our Thursdays the last four weeks, we have looked the story of the woman at the well and her unexpected conversation with Jesus. When Jesus offers her living water, he shows us that he cares for everyone, even the unlikely people (a woman frowned upon by society as well as a Samaritan). As refreshing as the idea of living water sounds, this is an abstract concept of cleansing aspects of ourselves that we can’t pinpoint or see. In efforts to visualize the invisible, campers and staff participated in a demonstration to see the implications of receiving Jesus’s living water. Participants had an opportunity to pour something into a communal cup of water to make it cloudy (ketchup, mustard, pepper, etc.), and share something that personally clouds or weighs down their own spirits. Then as a group we enjoyed the visual of pouring overwhelming amounts of clean water (representing Jesus’ living water), flooding the cup and pushing out all the junk that we put in and that weighs us down, leaving us refreshed and free of burden. Campers consistently reported enjoyment of this activity and deeper appreciation of God’s desire to help us carry and bring relief for our burdens. It’s been a beautiful catalyst moment for the spiritual component of camp.
Campers have shared experiencing God at many different points throughout the summer. One of those experiences I was fortunate enough to witness as God worked through our high school campers. After one of our small group times, the girls of this particular cabin had heavy hearts over the things they shared and put in the cup during the demonstration. In an effort to put their minds at rest before going to sleep, the cabin counselor opted to pray for each girl of the cabin out loud and proceeded to highlight the delightful characteristics and joys each girl brought to the cabin. At the end of the counselor’s prayer, I had planned to pray similar things for the counselor leading the prayer. However, I never got the chance because the moment she paused one of the campers jumped at the opportunity to pray and pour encouragement on their counselor, and when she finished another camper took a turn to pray for me! This moment was not only pleasant to be prayed for, but more so to witness campers receiving God’s love through our program all week and a strong desire to return the experience. This also meant our campers felt comfortable enough to pray out loud in front of their peers, unprompted, and live out the example Jesus calls us to in encouraging and building one another up in our faith. Although the work of camp is long and challenging at times, it is certainly not without reward!
Summer is under way and we are excited! Summer 2017 is shaping up to be Bethany Birches’ most attended summer in our 53 year history. You can see the current capacity of camp that remains open and which sessions are full on the 427 page. If you see a session you’d like to attend and see that it’s full, it may be worthwhile putting your child on the waitlist (as cancellations do happen). To do that, just sign up like you normally would.
To those of you who helped spread the word about Bethany Birches Camp and our rustic, relationship and skills developing, faith-building camp program, thank you! Please continue to share with your friends all that Bethany Birches has to offer: from unique and awesome summer and winter camp programs to weddings and other facility rentals. It takes a village to raise a child and we need all of you to help in that work. If you’re reading this and don’t have children camp age and don’t have use for the facility, consider sponsoring a camper this summer. Give to the Kids to Camp fund or join us at the annual benefit auction to make it happen.
Pray with me that this summer will be like all the others before it – that God’s presence will be experienced and that each person will be filled with God’s love, mercy, hope and joy. Come see for yourself as a volunteer.
For the past few months of my Bethany Birches Camp (BBC) WALK, my footprints have trod 20-25 miles of sidewalks in the City of Lancaster, PA, population 59,000. I chose to walk in an environment different from the countryside, suburbia, and township parks I was familiar with. The walk concentrated on 110 acres of Downtown Lancaster 1/4th mile N-S-E-W outward from City Square, the Center of Downtown Lancaster. The Square provides resources of banking, food service, a 297 room hotel, and perhaps the most known and visited icon, the Lancaster Central Market, tucked into the N.W. corner of The Square. This Square is surrounded by Queen, King, Duke, and Prince Streets, whose names bear the influence of Old English Royalty. This historical market established in 1889 is visited annually by thousands of locals and tourists, even though it is located in a small corner of The Square. The Central Market is the magnetic force which attracts so many people nationally and internationally, to mingle with friends and visitors, and taste the vendors’ best of food fare, including shoofly pies.
One day I stopped off at The Central Market on my WALK and visited with patrons seated at a table. In less than an hour’s time, three of us learned that each was a walker; one, along with her friend, had walked 5 miles together to the market, known to them as a common place of meeting, to strengthen their friendship, and the two of them learned about Bethany Birches Camp for Children in Vermont. We wished each other well in our individual WALKING lives. What a nice memory!
My intentional WALK experience Downtown found me reviewing 50+ years of footprints at Bethany Birches Camp located on 100 acres tucked into a small mountain top beside Lynds Hill Road in Plymouth, Vermont. It was begun in 1965. BBC is by now experiencing an adolescence of growing and developing an exciting camp program which is meeting the needs of a growing number of children, youth, and families, many of whom lack a significant church family life. The establishment of BBC was not influenced by Old English Royalty but by newly immigrated residents, a married couple from Pennsylvania who invested in land. Their hope was to establish a camp which would help youth and children develop a relationship with God. The Camp “square” is the Pavilion (PAVI) which contains the main support services of the camp and from which many activities flow. The PAVI is not surrounded by streets influenced by banking and commercial influences, but by trees, mountains, and open skies. It provides a view of mountain ranges for a distance of 4 to 5 miles (quite unthinkable for market-goers gazing anywhere within 1/4th mile of Lancaster city square). Rainy weather, though not necessarily welcome, is managed well since the open side of the PAVI can be quickly enclosed with solidly constructed curtains and storm doors; so most activities can continue rain or shine. From the PAVI, a road extends into the woodland which leads to five cabins for girls on one side, and five cabins for boys on the other. Each cabin bears the name of a bird, not inspired by Old English Royalty, but by the fact that the “ten birds” are at home in the mountain top. The camp is blessed with resources such as; a caring Christian Director and Administration, trained counselors, pastor, swimming pool, nature trails, Bible and nature classes, and most importantly, the prayers and support of committed board members as well as many financial supporters.
Central Market in Downtown Lancaster, PA, has a 125 year history of providing experiences for people who can satisfy their food tastes, along with meeting new people, and renewing older and lasting friendships. They return year after year to experience more of the same.
BBC in Plymouth, VT., has a 52 year history of providing an experience for children and youth to have safe and secure camping activities with new and former friends, and to become acquainted with God who loves them. And yes, they return year after year for more of the same. Can you imagine my smile as I tell you my wife Anna Mae and I are planning to spend a week at Bethany Birches Camp this summer?
Since the last pavi update more progress has been made! A faithful supporter gave $9,000 toward kitchen equipment so we bought the convection ovens and slicer. Huge upgrades! You can see the updated pavilion project punch list below.
Here are the ovens being delivered:
And the ovens in place!
And the slicer:
And here is the punch list. You can compare this to the one from a report this past December to see progress made. Very exciting!
My wife Anna Mae and I recently completed a driving trip from Pennsylvania to South Dakota. We visited our empty-nest daughter Jenelle Miller (a former BBC camper and years later, counselor) and her husband Craig. This trip allowed me opportunity to exercise “out-of-the-box” activity recently encouraged by my health care specialists for management of my mild dementia. It is hoped that this type of activity will help my mind to “connect the dots” of my life’s everyday experiences so I can feel better connected. The challenge of this new dementia-dimension of my life has contributed considerably to my decision to begin my BBC WALK.
During this 13-day trip, my footprint was left on the roadsides of the 8 states we traveled through. In our 2,688-mile round trip travels, I noticed the ability, particularly in the Prairie States, to sight single objects at increasing distances away from the eye. In the final leg of our trip west we were approaching the SW corner boundary of Craig and Jenelle’s farm and we noticed an 80-90 year old scotch pine tree in the distance. Days later, this corner tree was sighted 2 miles away as I walked westward on the county road. The tree can also be sighted 3 miles away from east to west. It has marked the Miller farm for four generations, a “connecting dot” for all their family that they are nearing home. This is experienced by all as change and renewal.
There exists another stalwart tree located in the BBC community. It is known as the tree house which provides shade for flowers, a perch for the birds, and a resting, out-of-the-ordinary place for campers to which counselors take them for an evening fireside and night sleepover away from the hustle and bustle of daytime camp activities. The tree house is built at a height where campers can look down on the flowers, and across at the birds; a “connecting dot” for both campers and their environment.
When Anna Mae and I visited the tree house years ago, we wanted to linger for some time. Just imagine a camp cabin of Warblers and their counselor flocking to the tree house/Nest . . . (new name?) for a sleepover! This BBC “point of interest” provides one of many opportunities for children to be introduced to Jesus, a super “coming home”.
One of the founding principles of Bethany Birches back in the 60’s was to “provide a camping experience for youth where counselor and camper together can engage in learning relationships which will prepare them for future responsibilities in life.” As you probably know it’s easier to have a learning relationship with someone you trust and respect. And it’s easier to trust and respect someone who accepts you for who you are.
During staff training we teach the importance of being with campers in the daily routine of camp; Befriending them, learning to know them, accepting them for who they are. I recently heard from a parent about her daughters experience from this past winter. Her comments warmed my heart and pointed to an effective season of camps.
This young camper is a strong and talented girl. She’s pretty and smart and her peers like her. So I was a little surprised to get this email from her mother:
“Thank you all so much for providing such a wonderful place for [my daughter] to feel love and acceptance. She has been struggling at school feeling like an outcast . She came home with a great outlook on life again and seemed so much happier. It is with tears that I write this. Thank you, Dana”
I am thankful for caring staff that can create this kind of experience. I am thankful for a God that loves us and gave us examples of love and acceptance. Pray for us as we strive to mirror this blessing and pray that each camper will grow in their confidence and strength as they learn to see God through us.
This past winter has been interesting weather-wise. Another interesting trend is the uptick in attendance for winter programs. For the three overnight programs we saw 168 camper days which is 95% of total capacity. On top of this, there were waiting lists for all three sessions!
As many of you know, winter is so busy for many families in central VT. We continue to believe that what we’re doing at winter camps is unique and special and that almost all campers would choose it over other activities once they realize how fun and meaningful the weekends are. It makes mission accomplishment possible if a camper can be here at least once in the summer, once in the winter and one or two other times between.
We are deeply indebted to the many staff and volunteers that make these weekends possible. Gigi, a college student and long time BBC-er came to be Assistant Program Director three weekends in a row. A group from PA drove 7 hours each way to help run one of the weekends. Lots of other staff and volunteers sacrificed rest and relaxation to make winter camp all that it was.
Plan now to join us next year for one of the fun-filled, faith-building weekends as a camper or volunteer in the #BBCsnowGlobe.