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.
Greetings all. I have been somewhat silent lately related to the pavilion project. I had been hyping it for so long and I was so excited about it… I was always talking about it. And then we ran into challenges. And I got a little lost for a time. And you may not have heard much from me in general nor about the project. I’d like to use this space to share about some of the challenges we’ve experienced and how things are going now.
Some challenges I’ve experienced as a member of the pavi design team and owner’s representative:
Alternative building and contracts model – we received counsel (from a trusted advisor) that money could be saved by utilizing what’s known as an agency approach. This is different than the General Contractor approach in the sense that the lead contractor receives a fee or salary rather than making their money on markups and changes. If done well, this provides freedom to alter plans as well as savings. In our case, it seemed ideal because there are materials donors happy to offer discounts directly to the camp without going through the contractor. Well, this approach is somewhat new to some on the design team and we are learning.
Relationships – human relationships are often one of the most challenging (and rewarding) aspects to anyone’s life. This has been true in our working relationships as well.
Budget – this has perhaps provided the greatest source of stress for me. Related to the two above challenges, it was a challenge to finish construction documents. Resulting from that was an incomplete understanding of budget. Resulting from that was a design that was more than we budgeted. To be clear, the building that has been designed, and is being built, is an awesome building. It’s exactly what the camp needs to maximize ministry and program. It’s the building the board wanted and approved. It’s also more expensive than we wanted it to be (up from the desired $1.4 million to $2 million).
Timeline – And almost all of this could have much more easily been overcome if we did not have a tight timeline. Because the new pavilion was to replace the old in the same exact location and because skipping a summer of camp was not an option, we had only from mid August till the end of May to complete the project. Doing things fast and well typically costs more than if you can do them slowly and well. And constructing this building poorly was not an option.
So what are we doing?
We decided to move ahead with the preferred design in the face of budget challenges and look to save in two ways:
Phasing whatever did not have to be completed to use the space for summer 2015
Seeking volunteerism wherever possible
With phasing, volunteerism and a loan of $400,000 we are hoping to complete the building enough to get a certificate of occupancy by the end of May, 2015. We hope then to finish the building entirely over the following couple years and pay off the loan at the same time.
This is both not what we planned and not uncommon for large building projects (so I’m told). We knew from the very beginning that a project of this scale would be a great challenge for Bethany Birches Camp. We knew that using volunteers and keeping a tight budget would add to the challenge. We even felt at times like it was an impossible project. And that’s why the name Mission Possible: The Pavilion Project was selected. It harkens back to something Jesus says in Matthew 19:26: “with God, all things are possible.” We know this is true and we continue to put our trust in God.
We welcome your gifts of time and money, as God leads. We thank you for your ongoing interest and support of Bethany Birches Camp. Pray with us that all who use the new pavilion will be blessed and experience God’s love.
It’s true. Occupancy for the Bethany Birches Cabin has been granted. Here’s the proof, in fact.
This post is about the people who made it happen and what happened. THANK YOU!
About a year ago we were informed we’d need to stop using the cabin April 1, 2012
The board and I struggled to find a way forward – including how to pay for the upgrades
Many people gave of their financial resource generously. Without these folks, we couldn’t have done it: First Congregational Church of Woodstock, Doug and Becky Clemens, Dave and Beth Anders, Blooming Glen Mennonite Church, Bernard Sippin and many others.
$75,000 poured in over just a few months.
$65,000 has been spent and we’re done meeting the requirements! We expect to use the “extra” toward a few details in the cabin and any additional toward the upcoming Pavilion replacement. Please do write to me (Brandon) if you’d prefer your gift to be allocated differently.
The fire marshals were kind and flexible and helped us create a building that is much safer in case of fire.
Some of the people: (THANK YOU)
Robert Buchan – helping with permitting and lending knowledge
Paul Derksen & Dave Beidler – carpenters working at a discount seeing the project through
It would be interesting to gather all the stories and memories made by different people at camp. We became involved when we took some young adults from our church to camp for a service weekend. Then we took our family and volunteered for a week, and then volunteered this summer for a week as camp shepherds.
The theme for this summer was “Inside Out” and one of the daily themes was “Big Things in Small Packages”. As we stood inside the pavilion with over fifty 12-14 year olds, we all shared how BBC is a BIG thing in a small package. It is BIG because it is a place where kids feel safe and loved. It is BIG because it is the first place campers learn of God’s kingdom and unconditional love. It is BIG because of the positive impact on everyone there, from the campers, to the staff, to the volunteers. It is BIG because it continues to offer opportunities for these kids to come back time and time again. Did you know that many of the staff are former campers? Do you know how many families send multiple kids there, for many years?
The pavilion needs help, and soon you will hear more about MISSION POSSIBLE: The Pavilion Project. There is a group of people who have volunteered to help on the funding side, and we are called the Resource Development Team (RDT). Our charge is to help keep camp going for another 50 years, by supporting a campaign to fund a new pavilion. The “pavi” (short for pavilion) is the heart of BBC facility, and it needs help. Each person on the RDT has already made specific time and monetary commitments to this campaign. We can’t call others to do the same until we’ve put our money where our mouth is!
Consider how BBC has influenced you… your family… your own journey with Jesus. Think and pray about how you can commit to support camp and its campaign for the Pavi. Talk about it with your family and friends. As Tuna says, nothing at camp has been accomplished alone… it takes a village to raise a Pavi.
“With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:26
Summer 2012 brought a staff made up mostly of first timers. Each new staff member jumped in with both feet and offered their unique experiences and ideas. The 2012 summer staff came from really different backgrounds and conversations abounded regarding theology, politics, culture and various perspectives. Despite their diversity they formed a cohesive group to welcome each camper into the community of love that is BBC.
The More the Merrier:
Summer 2012 brought an increase in people to camp – both youth and adults. Camper registrations increased 14% over last summer. Many veteran campers brought friends for the first time, social service agencies directed more campers to BBC and a lot of campers came back to experience the fun and relationship they’ve come to depend on. There was also an increase in volunteers. Work groups from Franconia Mennonite Church (Franconia, PA), Swamp Mennonite Church (Quakertown, PA), Rockhill Mennonite Church (Telford, PA) and Souderton Mennonite Church (Souderton, PA) joined us in addition to local volunteers to work on various projects around camp.
Camper Created Video:
Summer 2012 also brought the opportunity for returning staff to create and implement their ideas based on their prior summer at BBC. For example Pepper (Alyssa Coffin) returned to the videographer position with a unique vision. After shooting 60 second clips in 2011 she was inspired to include campers in the film-making process. She pursued her vision to make DVDs from each week through the eyes of campers. Many campers participated in the video making process. They learned the basics of filming. Campers were extremely creative in capturing different aspects of camp. This addition to program was a huge success. To see some of this year’s footage go here. And to read more about Pepper’s idea, here.
The schedule and goals of summer camp remain consistent from one summer to the next. Despite this, summer program remains dynamic due to new staff joining, returning staff growing, new campers coming and returning campers learning new things. Summer camp is dynamic. Always changing. This summer was no different.
Each month, I write an email to some of Bethany Birches’ supporters. The topics and content vary. I share from my heart in these emails, about things that have happened at camp that I just love! A lot of times, I highlight something that one of our campers or staff has written or done. And, what would a note to supporters be without updates and sharing of needs?! Expect that too. Here’s April’s update.
You can subscribe to this update if you’d like right here.
This post is about a sad story. It’s the story of the BBC Cabin the day the fire marshal came to visit.
Bruce and Jay were friendly and clear. They have concerns about how quickly people could get out of the building in case of fire. They gave us a conditional permit, which ends April 1, 2012! After that, no one can sleep in the building until it’s amended to meet Vermont Life Safety Code.
How big of a deal can 8 violations really be? Apparently a big enough deal to cost $20-$30K (un-detailed estimate) – YIKES!
So I tell the board. They wisely came to the decision that now is not the time to upgrade the building as we hope to someday. We must stay focused on the pavilion project. We’re oh so close to beginning the fundraising effort for that. So, the vote is that we amend the building as simply as possible in the least expensive way we can.
For those of you who are wondering about these violations, here’s the first draft of a punch list:
1.No Egress window main floor bedrooms
Install 1 egress windows in each of four bd. rms.
Window to be 5.7 square feet
2.Stairwells out of code
. upgrade wall material. install 20 min doors. install closure on door. upstairs build wall
. 4 stairwells. drywall. doors
Add heating in loft
Need heating because of closure to lofts
3.No exits in lofts
Install exit door in each sided (2 total)
Need exit stairway from floor to ground
5. inadequate Co2 detectors
Install hardwired Co2 with battery back-up
Run wires with smoke detect system
6.No smoke detectors in basement
Install 2 smoke detectors in basement
Part of total smoke detect overhaul
7. no emergency lighting
Install emergency lighting system
8. inadequate fire alarm system
Install new fire alarm system with communications
Clarify what communications system is
Painting and other touchups related to construction
And so here we are. We MUST do the above if we want to use the building this summer in program. CAN YOU HELP US? HERE ARE A FEW WAYS TO HELP:
Give money! Just the materials are going to cost over $10K (EDIT on 4/6/12 – materials will probably be closer to $30K!). Send a check or give online here and give to general operations or where needed most.
Give time: we’ll need volunteers to do most of the work. Consider getting a small crew of experienced people together and come up for a weekend. A few experienced laborers can make a big dent in just two days. Call the office or email Brandon.
Give material: perhaps you own or have influence in a supply chain that could get us sheet rock, lighting, paint, etc. If it’s in the above list, we need it.
And so the story of an old camp, that’s doing the best it can, continues.
Something very interesting to me is the fact that I had a two hour emotional cycle after the fire marshal’s visit. At first I was frustrated and annoyed. Then, humility kicked in. So often, when I receive correction, direction, instruction, if I am able to release my frustration, I begin to sense God at work.
God, join us in this endevor and in all of our endevors. I pray that you will bring the resources and people needed to acomplish this change and that it will not distract from the bigger things ahead.