If you haven’t read about our experience this summer you can get a glimpse here. Reopening is one thing. Doing so with a goal to have no virus transmission, especially when living together in groups, is another thing. We are delighted with the results and so glad that we were able to pursue our mission fully. We all need to connect with what matters in our lives and see God for who he is more now than ever. It was a joy to share with young people this summer that God really does love and care for them and all they need to do is reach out and begin to experience the grace, purpose, peace and rescue that God has planned for them. This message seemed to be especially relevant amid these unprecedented times. Accomplishing this came at a cost, of course. We spent over $16,000 for our pandemic response initiative and took in about $70,000 less than usual in summer camp revenue. While we were able to cut costs by $20,000, there is still a gap!
I invite you give to “Where Most Needed”, “Kids To Camp”, or, “Pandemic Response Initiative” categories. I also invite you to join us for the annual benefit auction in November. Learn more about the auction. Together, we will keep providing programming (even hopefully this winter) so that young people continue to develop a sense of hope, joy, and love.
Save the date, mark your calendars: Our 18th annual benefit auction has been set for the weekend of November 6-8!
Yes, it will be happening virtually, over the course of a few days. We are working out the details and here’s what we know will be included so far:
Live bidding. Our auctioneer, Sandy Alderfer, who has been with us since day one, will be live for an hour (virtually), doing what he does best: giving you a hard time and convincing you a pint of maple syrup really is worth $200! This will be interactive with Sandy.
Multi day, online bidding. If you are not familiar with this style, in short, it works like our silent auction does. You bid, then someone outbids you. You get a notification if you are outbid. There is an end time at which the highest bidder wins.
Online shopping. You’ll be able to buy things like camp store swag, items from local businesses, and of course, you’ll be able to buy your mug club mug. (This will be shipped to your house before the live component of the auction so you can enjoy during the auction!)
The Mug Club! It will be shipped to your house before the live component of the auction so you can enjoy during the auction.
Matches. Not for building fires… we’re talking dollars! Do you have interesting in putting up a match toward an item or special project? Special projects include a new camp SUV, the rock wall in the pavilion, and of course, the ever popular Kids To Camp fund. Let Brandon know if you would like to talk more about this.
While the world looks strange right now, and we have decided to go online for this event, we are excited to spend that weekend with you in a new way. We’ll share stories from this summer at camp, and have some classic auction items available to purchase that weekend too. The auction committee is working hard on some creative ideas to make this year memorable and fun, and especially to retain as much normalcy as we can.
On the topic of normalcy, check out this video from summer 2020.
The auction is one of the highlights of our year, and a huge fundraising opportunity for camp, particularly for camper scholarships that make it possible for so many kids to come and experience BBC.
We look forward to sharing more info on the auction soon!
Kellyn “Benji” Boyden
Media and Communications Manager
p.s. In case you were wondering – we have two more weeks until we can pronounce that no virus was spread here this summer. At the moment, no one has fallen ill with Covid-19!
p.p.s. Volunteers! If interested in volunteering for any of these things, please reply.
Over the last few years Bethany Birches has been committed to partnering with academic organizations researching the benefits of Christian Summer Camps. Last year the Hope Study (University of Oklahoma) measured whether campers experienced increased hope as a result of their camp experience. The Hope Study 2018 found “The results of this report continue to provide support for the positive impact the participating Christian camps are having on the boys and girls attending those camps, not just in terms of Hope and Well-Being, but also in social connectedness and interest in their Faith.” Fifty-six percent of campers had increased hope scores after coming to camp. This was most closely correlated with making friends and having developed some faith.
This year The Power of Camp study (POC) has given us preliminary data about campers’ engagement with faith, relationships with peers, and connection to staff as a result of their camp experience. Based on early data from this summer all of the parents surveyed said their child made friends at camp and 67% of campers said they were strengthened in their faith. Only 24% of parents reported reading the Bible with their children and 87% of parents felt we were “effectively teaching Christian faith.” All of the parents surveyed said they would send their child back to camp and 90% of campers ranked “the entire camp experience” as their most enjoyed part of camp. The initial data we have received from this summer is very encouraging and points toward significant mission accomplishment. We are excited that 100% of parents surveyed were pleased with our “system of addressing bullying/ conflicts.” We see Jesus’ teachings of “Love your enemies” and “treat others as you wish to be treated” in this statistic.
2019 was the third summer in a row in which our seasonal staff participated in The Power of Camp. POC was conducted by Wheaton College looking at how staff of summer camps are affected by the experience. We have received data specific to our staff’s experiences and are able to compare this with the average of camps participating in the study. Participating in these studies allows us to quantitatively identify our areas of strength as well as opportunities for improvement. For example, between the 2017 and 2018 staff studies we saw a significant increase in how staff felt supported by their supervisors. We improved from being on par with other camps with a 4.1 out of 5 rating to a 5 out of 5 average rating from the staff. Also improving in the same period were the percent of staff who experienced growth in the teamwork and emotional intelligence areas assessed by the study. These and others had been identified as areas for improvement by camp leadership and the following year increased by 22.5% and 21.5% to be on par or higher than the average camp in the study. Between the summers 2017 and 2018 we improved parts of staff training, intentionally sought ways to provide more support for staff, and had better and more frequent meetings to improve communication. These improvements have been continued this last summer and we look forward to the forthcoming 2019 research study results.
It is encouraging to have data to inform our decisions and confirm what we are doing is consistent with our mission. We were able to see that staff was improving in areas of spiritual growth, leadership, and resiliency similar to other camps and pinpoint what we could improve the next year. We feel both affirmed by the research and able to identify potential areas for improvement next year. We will continue pursuing these research opportunities because they have been and will continue to be part of making Bethany Birches Camp better at achieving our mission to help young people develop their relationship with God.
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
This is the last auction items spotlight, as we will close the online bidding form tomorrow (Sept 28) at 9am and start putting full attention on final setup and details. So get your bids in tonight and first thing tomorrow morning if you’re not joining us on Saturday!
One item that is not to be missed is Win One Day of Service by Forest Savers.(Code: FORSAV) Gerry Hawkes, owner/operator of Forest Savers, has been a long-time supporter of Bethany Birches Camp. He headed up the consulting and construction for the camp pond in the 80’s and this spring cut 300 dead trees down in 1 day. This dude has tools and tons of experience. He can make your land project happen! You wanna cut trails through your wood lot, no problem (he’ll even design them). Maybe you want to reclaim a field that’s overgrown. He’ll do it in less than a day. Your driveway is a mess from years of rain and plowing… he can get it looking brand new. He offers many services. Visit his website to see them all and to watch videos of him in action. In fact, here’s Gerry pulling spruce poles out of the camp woods for the pavilion porches back in 2015.
I am personally not what you would call a “good cook.” I have joked with friends that the smoke detector and the oven timer are basically the same thing. Yes, I have burned broccoli while attempting to steam it, and I have practically dehydrated asparagus while trying to roast it. The only real “specialty” that I make is Rice Krispie Treats – and that is simply because I add EXTRA marshmallows to the recipe on the box. (But they are so good!)
Needless to say, I really appreciate those who have skills in the kitchen and are willing to share them.
We are so excited to be featuring some friends of camp, who are also very talented home chefs, and are offering up what they do best! At the BBC Annual Benefit Auction you could win yourself an amazing culinary delight. We are talking drool worthy!
For the CHOCOHOLICS out there, like myself, I would strongly suggest bidding on Gwen Groff’s Flourless Chocolate Torte with Raspberry Coulis. I think the name says it all – but it is simply a decadent treat not to be missed. Charles Shultz said: “All I really need is love, but a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.” How true!
For the SEAFOOD LOVERS, there are two great options to consider. First – you could treat yourself to a batch of Phil Wilkerson’s famous Maryland Fresh Blue Crab Cakes! He will make them to order with a week’s notice, and you can pick them up in Bridgewater. That sounds like a perfectly delicious dinner – and no dishes! Amazing!
Secondly – you could enjoy a full 4-Course Seafood Dinner Extravaganza, cooked for you by, and hosted in the home of, Abner and Virginia Schlabach. Everything they make is wonderful and their hospitality is second to none. This would be such a great evening – don’t miss out! The menu includes things like cream of crab soup, salad with scallops, and grilled catch of the day with mango salsa. Yum!
Finally – You can also win a full Dinner for Eight People – cooked and delivered to you by Donna Miles. She will design a menu style to your choice, deliver it do your house, and dessert is included. This sounds like a great way to have friends and family over for a fun evening – and not have to worry about cooking. And it is guaranteed to be delicious.
Virginia Woolf said that “One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.”
The BBC Annual Benefit Auction is only 3 sleeps away. Yay- I can’t wait!
Not only is this a great way to score some amazing items, but you get to help send kids to camp in the process. That is what I call a WIN-WIN!
Have you checked out our website yet to start your ‘WISH LIST’ of things you want to bid on? I have, and so I thought I would share are a couple of the items that I am very excited about.
I don’t know about you, but there is something wonderful about wearing a brand new pair of socks. That feeling is just so cozy and perfect, and totally makes an average day into something special. And if they are a FUN pair of socks, that is even better. So – I totally have my eye on all the amazing Solmate Socks we have to choose from on the auction list. The snuggle is real! Which design will be your favorite? Or maybe you will find the perfect pair for a friend! (Plus – this is a great item to use as a stocking stuffer for those of you early birds who are already in Christmas shopping mode)
And where better to wear those awesome socks – than to the MOUNTAIN! I am a snowboarder, and I look forward to carving up some winter fun. How awesome that we have donated tickets to Killington, Okemo, and Suicide Six. Now, I just need to decide which one to bid on! I guess having too many great options is not a bad problem to have.
I recommend you check out the website and start making your own Wish List. We hope to see you on Saturday, from 9am-Noon, at the Auction.
Why do all good things come to an end? So that new good things can begin!
Dan “Chick” Laubach has served as program director since May 2015. He has decided to finish his service at Bethany Birches effective the end of August 2018. He has made important contributions (and will continue to this year… and he evens plans to volunteer beyond this year). While he was program director, summer and winter registrations were opened earlier than ever. I believe that has contributed to the ongoing increase in attendance (in fact, half of programs offered in a calendar year have waiting lists… we’re expecting even more waiting lists this year). Chick has also contributed to a professionalism in the office. He has helped to upgrade policies and procedures and has sharpened some of our marketing and communications plans.
I very much appreciate the amount of time he has allowed us for making the transition. He is going to continue managing the program throughout this winter and summer. He will depart at the end of summer 2018. If a replacement is found in time, I would consider him/her starting as soon as May 2018 for maximum transfer of knowledge, ideas, practices etc. However, if an ideal fit is found, we would start them whenever works best for them. The search for a new program director will begin shortly. We have some backend work to do to clarify the type of person we’re looking for and finalize some details. In the mean time, if you or someone you know has interest, please do reach out to me. Call the office, email or even text if you have my number.
We give Chick a big round of applause and wish him the very best in his future endeavors. Most importantly, may you be guided by God’s spirit and at peace into the unknown. Thanks for your service and can’t wait to see you back here as a volunteer.
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.