In a society preoccupied with STUFF consider giving the gift of an experience this Christmas.
PARENTS: planning to send your camper to camp this winter or summer? Consider giving them camp for Christmas! You can use the form on this page to get them signed up easily and will get a card to give your child too: bethanybirches.org/xmas
SUPPORTERS: Perhaps your loved ones don’t need any more things. Give them the gift of knowing a child is being nurtured spiritually, physically and emotionally. Make a contribution using the form on this page (bethanybirches/givecamp) and we’ll email you a Christmas card you can place in a loved one’s stocking Christmas morning!
The Bethany Birches Camp experience teaches many things. Some campers learn how to shoot a bow and arrow, some learn how to cook food over a fire while others uncover gifts God has given them. Learning at camp isn’t limited to campers. Bev Goshow (AKA Grandma Cookie Dough Chaos – that’s her camp name) thought she was coming for one week of serving in the kitchen back in 2010. Seven summers later she is retiring as the camp shepherd for BBC’s youngest campers. Thank you Grandma Cookie Dough Chaos for being open to how God would use you. The following paragraphs are Grandma’s reflections on her path to becoming a camp shepherd at BBC.
~ Amber “Cheeks” Bergey, Volunteer Coordinator & Day Camp Director
As a child I loved attending Camp Sankanac in Spring City, Pa. At that time I was unaware of the seed being planted and nourished. Fast forward to 2010. My husband Dave (aka Woodchip) and I volunteered one week at BBC. I was helping in the old kitchen. When I wasn’t in the kitchen I enjoyed Fireside and soon found myself actively singing with the kids. I’m not sure what happened to me that week. I found myself going down the slip n slide laughing the entire way while campers chanted “Grandma! Grandma! Grandma!”
Before leaving camp, Amber (aka Cheeks) identified one of my gifts as loving children and invited me to be the shepherd the following year. She told me to pray about it. I told her I wouldn’t! I was afraid of what God was calling me to do! My husband Dave felt differently. Dave said right away, “She’ll do it.” He then turned to me and said “You’ll be great at this! It’s right up your alley.”
Preparing for the first year of shepherding brought a lot of anxiety. I had no formal education to do this job. I was just a willing helper. I was fearful the counselors would correct one of my Bible stories! Nothing like that happened. I prayed God would be present and this was for HIM, not Bev. I LOVED my new role!
The highlight of shepherding over the last few years was to share about a loving God and the way of Jesus with 6 to 9 year old campers. I had the total attention of campers when telling them the Bible stories in flannelgraph! You usually could hear a pin drop – even with 84 active kids!
One of the memories that stands out was when I shared the story of Jesus feeding the 5000. Quietly the children filed passed me as I gave them bread and fish (Swedish) and told them Jesus loves them. It was so reverent and peaceful. I cried like a baby as the last child went through.
As a camp shepherd I always had one goal: to plant seeds for children to know Jesus as their personal savior and to nourish those seeds in whatever way possible.
Dot Samsi was a parent/volunteer last summer (2017) at BBC. She agreed to reflect on her experience for the 2017 fall newsletter. Check out family – friendly – no – previous – experience – required – volunteer opportunities for 2018 here.
Camp has been a part of my life since I was a kid in Ohio. Every summer I went away for a week. When I came home covered in mosquito bites, I would write letters to my camp friends and impatiently check our mailbox for their responses. After college I got to work at camp for a summer that turned into a year and a half. My husband and I even got married at that camp and had our reception in the dining hall! Once our kids were old enough, they joined the fun by coming to Mom & Me camp.
Since leaving Ohio several years ago, camp hadn’t been part of our lives but I knew that I wanted camp to be part of our kids’ lives. When we moved to New England, we heard about Bethany Birches from some friends. Then two years ago we made the 120 mile trip to camp for the first time. We dropped the kids off on the mountain for Launch Half. Two days later we picked up exhausted campers who had had a great time!
This past summer I didn’t want to miss out on all the fun. I asked if camp might need a volunteer and heard back from Amber that Bethany Birches loves volunteers! Yay! And it turns out, BBC can use plenty of volunteers. My daughter invited 2 friends and one of their moms, Amy, volunteered also. We all arrived ready to stay for the 2-night Launch Half program.
Amy and I both volunteered in the kitchen where Sparkles and Sharkbait put us right to work. Within a few minutes, we had gloves on our hands, bandannas on our heads, and we were serving dinner to hungry campers! We washed dishes, mopped floors, packed meal crates, and made huge amounts of apple crisp. We even got to make a grocery run for pig trough supplies!
As far as lodging, we brought our sleeping bags and we were ready to rough it, but we ended up staying in a really nice house up the street. It was more like glamping than camping and we had a good time getting to know the other volunteers. Looking for adventure, Amy and I slept out in the hammocks the last night. When we weren’t in the kitchen, we got to see some of the activities (now I know what a pig trough is all about!) and hear some of Grandma Cookie Dough’s firesides. We also got to do a little hiking. (The treehouses are amazing! I think that there may be a treehouse sleepout in my future!)
Volunteering at camp was such a welcome change of pace. The positive atmosphere, the beauty of God’s creation and the joy and enthusiasm of the campers and staff were so refreshing. Even with all the hard work, I came away feeling refreshed. I’m so glad that my family has found Bethany Birches. We can’t wait until next summer!
-Dot Samsi, 2017 Summer Camp Volunteer
Volunteers surround camper enjoying the pig trough
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.
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.
It is challenging to gauge success when trying to accomplish a mission like Bethany Birches’. We do some surveys after summer and winter seasons to see how we did in a couple different areas. I just LOVE what came from the surveys this past summer.
33% of survey respondents (parents) rated their child’s experience a 10 or “the best time imaginable.”33% more rated their child’s experience as a 9. And 24% an 8. Half of all survey respondents said their children “seem more loving or kind” after their week at camp. As I read through survey’s from camper parents post summer I saw this report from a mother about her two campers:
“They both came home singing great pre-dinner songs like, “thank you God, for giving us food!!!!” We loved learning these songs and still sing them before meals! They also learned about how to be a good friend, and how to work well with others. They learned how to do their own dishes which made me very happy!”
I think that part of the reason most campers loved it here last summer (ratings of 8, 9, 10) is because they felt loved, accepted and cared for (fun, great people and great activities didn’t hurt either!). “Proof” that we are creating the type of atmosphere required to accomplish our mission. I also take great encouragement knowing that half of the parents surveyed said their children “seem more loving or kind.” This reminds me of Jesus’ teaching to love God and to love people. We must become a person filled with God’s love and love for those around us to accomplish this. If parents are noticing their children becoming “more loving or kind” I bet it’s because what happens at camp is helping people live out this teaching of Jesus and develop a relationship with God.
That’s right. A local church is in the process of installing solar for the energy needs of the church and is installing twice as much solar as they need. Heather Hawkes of Taftsville Chapel in Vermont says “the project specs for an 11.66kW solar array. We estimate that we will use about 5.3kW to meet our current energy needs at Taftsville Chapel.” The church has intentionally built an array almost twice as big as they needed so they could give green energy. Heather explains the choice like this: “We see caring for and restoring God’s good creation as a way to love God and love our neighbors.” The green movement is not just a social movement to the church but one of faith as well.
We are fortunate to be operating completely out of the new pavilion! We gained occupancy to the entire building June 2016. We had partial occupancy June 2015. We are focused on finishing this project! That includes finishing moving in, some additional fundraising and completion of a few items.
Moving in is the easy part! Total cash needs to finish the project and pay down outstanding debt is $249,500. $116,000 of this is debt on which we are paying interest. We are working to get rid of this debt (you could make a contribution now… or buy a session of camp for your child for Christmas)! The remaining $133,500 is to finish aspects of the project. Those aspects include kitchen equipment, climbing wall/high ropes, wood boiler, finishes (paint, sealing floor etc). Find the detailed list and estimated costs at the bottom of this post.
To date we have spent a little over $1,800,000 on the building including the loans referenced above, some in-kind gifts of materials and almost 7,000 volunteer hours. We expect to complete the project and all its components as time and money allow. We expect to finish paying down debt by end of calendar year 2017. And we expect many great uses of the building from now on! The building has served campers for two summer camp seasons and this winter will be the second winter camp season hosted in the new building. There have been 5 weddings and many other group uses already in the short time the building has existed. If you would like to give to help finish this project, PLEASE let me know.
Another auction has come and gone. Boy was it fun! Preparation always seems so stressful for the committee and staff. I left camp at 10pm on Friday night knowing there was plenty to finish on Saturday morning. Slept OK. Woke up thinking about all there was to do. Rushed up to camp after kissing my wife and daughter. Got out of my truck and took a deep breath. Immediately I smelled quiche baking and doughnuts frying. The air was brisk and the sun bright. Fog was rising from the valley below. I recalled a snapshot from a recent board retreat. Someone wrote “Auction Day.” That was a response to the question, “What do you love about camp?” I hadn’t thought about that much until that moment. And I realized that even though it’s stressful for me I just love auction day! Campers are back on site. Many of our most faithful supporters are here. Lots of volunteers hustle around to get food out. And there are new-to-camp folks checking it out for the first time. Sometimes just passing by sometimes from a nearby town.
What a wonderful mix of people! And all for the purpose of supporting a vision of a better world – a vision of giving local children a needed experience; young people who need a place to go and get outside and play. To experience God in nature and the people around them. To be inspired to hope and dream and love. Who doesn’t want to invest in our youth in a meaningful way.
And then there’s the food. Fresh made doughnuts. Quiche & fruit. Fresh coffee. Fresh squeezed apple cider. Popcorn just popped like at the movies. Add the people and food to the event itself – the auctioneers doing their thing with their crazy fast talk. What fun and fellowship!
$42,049 has been recorded so far.
80 bidder numbers were handed out to over 130 people.
95 raffle tickets sold (congrats to Rebecca Golding, winner).
180 doughnuts made and consumed in 4 hours.
See photos from the day on the main auction page. Coming to that page in a day or so will be the lot list with winning bids attached. It’s often fun to see how much items sold for.
And please please please plan to join us next year, September 23 OR 30, 2017 (committee will be deciding shortly).
Please also plan to join us as a volunteer during winter or summer programs. Or, sign up for monthly giving (email me brandon @ bethanybirches.org for the monthly giving form). No matter how you join in the fun, hope to see you here at camp sometime soon.
I’ve been struck the last few days how much fun it is to bring friends to camp! This past week 2 volunteers who have been coming to camp for the past 18+ years brought two friends to camp. Each of them contributed to help the 2nd floor of the pavilion progress.
Merle Horst and Dave Mussleman are part of the Musser Woodcutting crew. This crew of guys have been cutting the camp’s wood for the last 18+ years. A few weeks ago I sent an email to Merle to see if he could round up some able volunteers to help us finish the 2nd floor of the pavilion. Dave was available and so were 2 friends – Lester and Will.
Thanks to Merle and Dave inviting friends a lot MORE was accomplished in 2 and a half days on the top floor of the pavilion. Beautiful barn doors, trim, wainscot caps, shelves were among their projects. Not to mention everyone seemed to have a lot of fun! Community building happens among campers, volunteers, staff and whoever finds themselves on the hill. Camp is always more fun with friends!
If you’re a camper family – consider inviting at least 1 new friend to BBC this summer! If you’re a volunteer – consider inviting a friend who’s never been to camp to join you the next time you’re on the hill!