Archive for the ‘For Parents’ Category

Winter Camp Update (02/09/2021)

Dear Camper Parents,

I write to you with breaking news that is hard for me to share: we just learned that the Health Department made new policy and will not allow our resident camp program this winter.  This news is hours old at time of writing this post.

How did we get here?

  • I consulted with the Health Department in late November about our winter programming.  A representative from the department noted that our plans seemed in line with the guidance they have set forth and as safe as one can be right now.
  • I was instructed to follow the Governor’s orders, be aware of the law, and then make choices.  In mid December, after reviewing all the available guidance and executive order again, and finding solutions for how to eat and sleep safely, we decided to open registration for resident winter camp for 21 campers at a time with a mostly outdoor schedule.
  • A school nurse recently inquired (last week?) with the Health Department as to whether a child who attends Bethany Birches winter camp would need to quarantine before coming back to school.  Officials felt that section 8.2 of the WorkSafe guidance did not have a good enough answer.  As a state lawyer described it to me, he felt our overnight winter programs did not fit neatly into any of the ACCD guidance for Governor Scott’s executive order.  He noted that our plans seemed very creative and worthy of consideration and that we should submit a request to the Health Department.
  • They reviewed our request.  There was discussion between high ranking representatives from ACCD, Health Dept., and Bethany Birches.
  • Feb 9 in the late afternoon, I received notice that our resident camps were not allowed at the moment.  This was a policy the Health Dept. just created: no resident camps for February.

Needless to say, we are somewhat stunned at this updated policy/guidance.  Especially when our operating procedures seem safer than what I observe in many public places.  I try to remember how much stress some of our government officials are experiencing, and that gives me grace toward them.  More so than being stunned, I am sad and disheartened.  We were so excited to welcome your child to camp, and to stimulate hope and love and joy… and share some of this deep fluffy snow!

Given the timeline it was important to me that we get you this information immediately.

What’s next?

  • Money: tomorrow we will reach out about your preference.  You will have three options.  Roll your payment to summer camp, get a full refund, transfer your payment to a donation.
  • Winter Camp: we will consider whether we can offer any day programming this winter, or, open our facility to you so your family can come to ice skate, ski, tube, etc.
  • Summer Camp: it sounds like we may be invited to help craft guidance for resident programs in Vermont for summer 2021.  This is good news for BBC families because it means that we will have early awareness of the new rules and be able to best prepare for what is quite likely to be another strange year.  Registration for summer camp 2021 is open.  Many have already registered.  If you have not, you can find your session here.

Let me know of any questions, comments, and ideas. In the meantime give your kiddo a hug from me and the other camp staff.  We miss them and hope they are finding ways to thrive.

Sincerely,

Brandon “Tuna” Bergey
Bethany Birches Camp
Executive Director

Registration Open!

Dear Camp Friends,

The moment has come!  We have done all we need to do to re-situate people and reopen registration.  Thanks for bearing with us!  So go ahead and grab your spot while you can.

I encourage you to register and pay as soon as possible for your best chance at reserving a session for your child.  Please select only one session for the summer per child.  If you select more than one session per camper, we will remove your child from all but one session of our choosing.

As a reminder, we are only taking those living in-state (VT) at this time.  If you live out of state, and would like an exception, please let us know and we can review your situation.

If the session you want for your child is full, I encourage you to sign up and get on the waitlist.  As we know, the pandemic is causing ongoing changes and that is one of the main reasons I encourage you to claim your spot on the waiting list.  Surely some spots will open up.  You will need to make a $50 deposit to get on the wait list and we can refund that $50 if your child does not end up being able to attend camp.

Get signed up here!  Register Now

Check out the pandemic response FAQ page here.  Feel free to ask any questions not answered there.

I pray that you and your family are finding peace and joy, even in these strange times.

Brandon “Tuna” Bergey
Executive Director

Find previous communications about summer 2020 here.

p.s. while some details on what summer camp will look and feel like are in the FAQ page, more are coming shortly!

Updated Summer 2020 Schedule Announced

I write this with reserved excitement.  It is exciting to offer resident camp in the context of the pandemic.  It is also going to be a special challenge for all involved.  Our primary goals are to create a distanced, safe, outdoor oriented program with special considerations for the Covid-19 crisis and to give children and teens an outlet for some of the things that have been missing in their lives lately.

Here are the sessions we know we are able to offer considering the many changes that needed to be made:

We are working daily to make the modifications necessary and get needed supplies.  We will do our best to keep a FAQ page up to date and add more detail as we create it.  Please feel free to call the office with questions – 802-672-5220.  Here is the page for your reference: https://www.bethanybirches.org/summer-2020-faq

If you are currently enrolled and want your child to come to Launch Day Camp A, July 6-10, please reply by this coming Sunday, June 14.  For all other sessions, please reply by Wednesday, June 17.  If you are not currently enrolled, we expect to reopen registration after June 17.

Thanks for joining us in this adventure so far.  I invite you to pray one of the prayers I have been praying lately – God, I thank you for (fill in anything you are thankful for).  God, also, I need help with (fill in anything you need help with).  Thankfulness and acknowledgment of our challenges and needs go hand in hand.

Brandon “Tuna” Bergey
Executive Director

Camp to start July 6 – Coronavirus update 3

Dear Camp Friends,

We know a lot more than we did last week!  Governor’s restart team gave the go ahead one week ago and our board of directors gave the go ahead on Wednesday night of this past week.  Working with our camp doctor and leadership team, we continue to create a modified way of doing camp that minimizes opportunities for virus transmission and utilizes guidance from the VT Health Department, CDC, and American Camp Association.

We are almost finished with our updated schedule.  We will not run all of our scheduled programs and plan to announce that by Wednesday of this coming week.  The first week of camp will be July 6 and will be Launch day camp for ages 6-10.

We know we will have at least four weeks of residential camp and probably two weeks of day camp.  After we share our updated schedule we will be emailing each family currently signed up and work to get you into whichever of the new programs you would like.  The way that process will work is fairly simple:

Respond to a future email indicating preference of session (we will give a deadline).

Pay your balance (by a deadline).

Review the materials we will send and prepare your camper for the modified experience (we will get this to you before the decision and payment deadlines). Noteworthy modifications relate to some new activities and some missing favorites, occasional required face covering for all (like during drop off, bathhouse, and meal prep. times), lots of hand-washing, assigned sleeping spaces etc.  We believe while it will feel quite different, campers will enjoy what we are preparing.

We plan to limit a camper to one session for the summer. Our goal is to serve as many different campers as possible given the reduced capacity (planning for 36 campers at a time so we can best follow guidance and requirements).  Until we help each enrolled family get into new sessions, we will keep registration closed.  After the decision deadline for current enrollees we will open registration back up until all spots are filled.

I am praying a part of Isaiah 40 for each of you.  It’s a prayer that I needed very much this week.  Starting at v. 28: “Have you not known?  Have you not heard?  The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.  He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable.  He gives power to the faint, and to those who have no might God increases strength… they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”  Bless you.

Brandon “Tuna” Bergey
Executive Director

Summer 2020 Coronavirus Plans Part 2

Greetings Friends.  I shared a week ago via email (part 1) that we expected to run some sort of on-site program and that it was not clear what all would be included.  I will continue to report our progress and plans on a weekly basis.

We received guidance from the Governor’s team Friday at noon stating we would be allowed to run resident camp.

We had a board meeting last night and uncovered some issues and challenges.  Our desire remains to use our wonderful property for the community.

So here are a few things I can share with you, even though we are not yet prepared to announce our summer 2020 offerings.

What will summer camp look and feel like?  Quite a bit different!  Here is a document from the VT Dept. of Health outlining what parents should expect from summer programs.  It details who will not be allowed to attend and that staff will be required to wear face coverings a lot.  We will probably have mandatory face covering times even for campers.  Examples may include when being in the pavilion, or, when cooking together at the fire.  Of course, we will adjust our requirements to stay current with VT Health Dept. guidelines if those guidelines change.

In addition, group size will be smaller overall, and, sessions a bit shorter.  Distancing will be part of the experience.  If we run resident programs, campers will sleep with heads at least 6′ apart in the open air shelters, among other distancing measures.

Will out of state campers be allowed to attend?  Only Vermont campers and those who have been in the state for 14 days will be allowed.  There may be a pathway to get around that, but, it’s unclear if we will be able to walk down that path.

If spots are limited, who gets one?  We expect to give priority to those already signed up, for whatever slots are available.  As of today, we have turned registration off for the weekend so no one else can reserve space.  We did this to ease any anxiety you may feel about getting a spot for your child.  If you already have a spot, meaning, you have signed up online, or, sent in your paper form before this was written, you will likely get to keep it, even if in a different session than what you signed up for.

So much more to plan and work through.  Since it isn’t completed, please be patient with us, and, enjoy the hymn I referenced last week.  This version is sung by my brother and a few of his friends a while ago.  The lyrics are important to me right now and I hope offers you some encouragement.

 

Hope you’re all finding ways to be outside, care for yourselves, and those around you.

Brandon “Tuna” Bergey

Executive Director

BBC Easter Program Live Stream

Greetings Camp Friends

(Reading this after Easter Sunday?  The links below will still take you to the video.  Enjoy anytime!)

He is risen?!  He is risen indeed!  You may or may not be familiar with this Easter call and response phrase.  We say it together on Easter Sunday.  Someone says he is risen and someone replies that he is risen indeed.  Sometimes, I think about the call “he is risen?!” as though it is a question.  As though the asker needs reassurance.  Then the responder affirms very boldly, that it’s true!  Jesus of Nazareth was raised from the dead!

I digress.  That’s only part of what this email is about… this email is an invite to join us at 7pm Easter Sunday for a ~20 minute reflection and song service.  You’ll hear music from Elvis, Sprocket, Meatball, Tom, and Nugget.  Reflections from Chick, Gigi, and Gwen Groff, pastor at Bethany Mennonite Church.  Join us on Youtube here www.bethanybirches.org/easter-yt and on Facebook here www.bethanybirches.org/easter-fb That will take you to the respective platforms for live a real-time event starting at 7.  Hope to see you there.

He is risen indeed!

Brandon “Tuna” Bergey, Executive Director

Office closed to visitors. Please get in touch virtually.

Bethany Birches office closed to the public.  Email, call, social media.  We are still working toward summer and beyond!  
Please email camp@bethanybirches.org or call 802-672-5220 and we would love to connect.  The camp’s website and blog and social media will remain updated regarding summer plans.  We are currently considering which versions of summer camp may be possible.  Campers who are currently signed up and deposited will receive priority for any programming that does happen.
Delivery?  Feel free to leave package at the door.  We will check for packages daily.

Why you should sign up now for summer camp 2020

Dear Bethany Birches Parents:

The staff are busy preparing for the 2020 summer camp season at Bethany Birches! We realize that these are uncertain times and there may not even be a 2020 summer camp season.  However, we will continue preparing as though there will be summer campFeel confident in signing up for summer 2020 because of 1 and 2 below.  3 and 4 below are in hopes of giving your children something to look forward to while being home for what may be quite some time.

1. Summer cancellation without penalty. If you have signed up for summer camp, or plan to do so, you may cancel with no penalty.  Cancel for any reason and we will keep every dollar on your account for one year.  You could use this at the upcoming winter sessions or the following summer sessions, or for a friend, different child, etc.  Also, if the current crisis causes a limited summer session, there won’t be as many spots. Sign up now with confidence.  As the pace of life slows down day by day you could get your mind in a different space and reserve your child’s summer spot now: http://www.bethanybirches.org/summer-camps-dates/.  If a session is canceled by us or regulators, same thing applies.  All cancellations must be made 3 weeks before the start of your session.

2. Safety. Our leadership team and medical professionals are upgrading the current health and safety practices we have in place at camp and if summer camp is held this season, we will have robust check-in and quarantine procedures in case of outbreak of any kind, Covid-19 or otherwise.

3. Get the kids out of the house and off the screen. On the topic of slowing pace, Bethany Birches’ property remains open to you.  While indoor spaces will be locked and only used for certain pre-arranged purposes, you are welcome to come and be in the outdoors.  Connect with us to learn how you can be here safely (email, phone, social).

4. Virtual Engagement. While we are staying separate from each other to slow the pandemic in our country, we can still be together in spirit and via internet!  Stay tuned for a few virtual camp experiences. Possibly things like biking with Tuna, crafts with Cheeks and Susie, camp songs with Meatball, Magic with Rupert, chill time with Beehive… the possibilities are endless!  Have a request? Let us know.  In the meantime, if you’re going to give your kiddos screen time, have them check out the BBC youtube channel.

 

You can help

  1. At this time, we believe the most effective thing we can do to stop the spread of this virus (thereby keeping medical facility traffic to a manageable rate) is to keep physical interaction limited (“social distancing”). Please learn and follow local and federal authorities’ recommendations.
  2. We are still looking for some of those great summer staff. For teens 15-17, consider Counselor in Training or Leader in Training.  For teens 17 and older, consider assistant counseling.  For college students and beyond, consider counseling, maintenance, kitchen, etc.

More to come as more becomes known.  We are praying strength for you and peace that passes understanding.

Brandon “Tuna” Bergey, Executive Director

P.S. Apparently handwashing is a game-changer.  I continue to challenge myself to do it for at least 20 seconds!  https://www.acacamps.org/news-publications/blogs/camp-connection/handwashing-make-it-really-effective

Nevin J Bender, the first camp director at Bethany Birches passes

Marcia Bender, Nevin’s daughter, who still lives near the camp, sent a message to Bethany Mennonite Church saying that Nevin had passed away.  As part of her email she wrote “He visited with mom in the afternoon, ate dinner, then died at the table – very peaceful and quiet.  I got to spend three lovely days with him earlier this month. To have been able to talk with him and sing with him and do puzzles with him was such a privilege, and it makes me smile and remember his loving, peaceful and steady presence.”

As the first director here at BBC, Nevin left his mark in many ways.  The core of the camp program still looks similar to what he created including community and fun and rustic camp living.  We will highlight some of the stories about him from Stories From The First 50 Years: Volume 1 in a coming blog post.

Obituary for Nevin James Bender

Nevin James Bender, 81, died on July 22, 2019 at Virginia Mennonite Retirement Community.  Nevin was born on July 13, 1938, the son of Nevin V. and Esther Lauver Bender.  

Nevin grew up on a small dairy farm in Greenwood DE.  At a very early age he was eager to learn the skills needed on the farm and spent many long days planting and harvesting baby lima beans.  Nevin attended Greenwood Mennonite School and graduated from Greenwood High School in 1956.  He was the director of the Greenwood Mennonite Youth Chorus and was an active youth leader and congregational music leader at Greenwood Mennonite Church.

On June 24, 1961 Nevin married Lourene Godshall.  They celebrated 58 years together this year.  

Nevin graduated from Eastern Mennonite College in 1961 and went on to earn a Master of Divinity at Hartford Seminary.  He became pastor at Bethany Mennonite Church in Vermont, and a few years later he established Bethany Birches Camp where he was also the camp director for 15 years.  The camp continues to this day.

Nevin’s pastoral career ended in 1979 when he suffered a brain aneurysm.  He and his family moved to Harrisonburg, VA in 1983 where he began working in the maintenance department of Eastern Mennonite College.  This second career lasted for the next 25 years; he was known as a positive, reliable, and energetic member of the grounds crew. Nevin and Lourene were active participants at Broad Street Mennonite Church, where Nevin was on the music team, playing guitar and leading music.

Following Nevin’s retirement from EMC, he spent 10 years at Friendship Industries, working in contract packaging, and did volunteer work at Gift and Thrift.

From lima beans to pastoring to groundskeeping to volunteer work, Nevin demonstrated a remarkable ability to adapt to his evolving capacities, reinventing himself repeatedly to take advantage of his skills and talents.

Nevin was preceded in death by siblings Lura Benner, Titus Bender, and Mildred Bender.  He is survived by his wife Lourene Godshall Bender; siblings Miriam Jantzi, Paul Bender, Hilda Swartz, Emma Myers, and Don Bender; children Nevin Bender, Conrad Bender, Marcia Bender and Angela Bender; grandchildren Miguel Garcia-Bender, Nikki Garcia-Bender, Marisol Garcia-Bender, Trinity Bender, Anna Hepler, Adaija Bender, Calef Hepler, and Shanta Bender.

The family will host a time of visitation on Monday, July 29 at 3:00 PM, followed by a memorial service at 4:00 PM at the Detweiler Auditorium at Virginia Mennonite Retirement Community, 1501 Virginia Ave., Harrisonburg, VA 22802. 

In lieu of flowers, please send donations to Bethany Birches Camp, 2610 Lynds Hill Road, Plymouth, VT,  05056 or make a donation on their website: www.bethanybirches.org