Our Biggest Challenge Yet


October 31, 2020

National Vocation Awareness Week November 1 – 6

#23 in a series of 25 short stories

Things were going really well…numbers had doubled over the years in CYO sport participation, Camp Howard numbers were good and we were heading into the final large building campaign for the camp, our Chapel.

March 13, 2020 we had 4 days left in our City Basketball Championship in which some 2500 players participate all over Greater Portland area.  All of a sudden, the Catholic Schools and public schools began to close, sport events including professional, high school and college programs began to cancel events and the nation was beginning to “crumble” before our eyes. What did this mean?

Within the week I realized it meant no spring sports, no summer camp, no benefit dinner, no fall sports, no winter sports, no camp rentals and we had to refund $450,000.  Thanks again to those who donated their fees.  Our income stopped but our expenses did not.  Still had to pay insurance, rent, and $40,000 per month in various expenses to keep the business afloat while anchored!  CYO was one of the businesses that had no business when Covid hit.

We made a lot of calls to donors who have been stellar in their response.  I cannot thank them enough for responding.  We contacted our office space superintendent and asked to cut our space in half and bring our monthly payment to half the expense.  They could not have been better to us, thank you American Property Management!  Most of the staff furloughed and 4 keeping things going at half pay.  A very generous donor stepped up and paid my salary through December.

We have been out of business going on 9 months as of November 1st.  God willing, we will see some business start up again soon.  We are working with the Track and Field Commission to begin track in the spring if possible and we are planning for a new version of camp this summer.  God willing, the Outdoor School will be able to go in the spring but that is iffy.

Our new challenge will be in how we bring the business back after 9 months idle.  We are doing our best to manage a reappearance with the help of a timeline and financial charts.  I know that there are a lot of people who have suffered mightily at the hands of Covid.  I am grateful to the healthcare heroes who gave so much.  I realize how fortunate we are to have the challenges we have in light of so many stories of pain and suffering.  We will embrace our situation and climb out of our hole and we are grateful to all who have and will give us a helping hand and a push and a nudge!    

Karen Joins me at CYO/Camp Howard


Karen and Chuck to the Rescue

October 29, 2020

3 days till National Vocation Awareness Week

#22 in a series of 25 short stories

During the winter of 2008-09, a huge winter storm hit Camp Howard falling sixteen trees due to heavy ice and snow. Thanks be to God, not a single building was hit by any of the trees but every electrical line in camp was brought down and the main electrical pole bringing power into the camp snapped like a toothpick. The camp was a mess. Three feet of snow covered the camp. Trees were strewn around the camp and the neighbors were ready to move out. The camp caretaker at the time called me to report the status of the camp and the fact that they had no power or heat.

Fortunately, my “go to” people were my blood sister, Karen and our brother-in-law, Chuck. I called them both to let them know what was going on as it was Christmas Eve. They geared up with diesel fuel, gasoline, chains, jumper cables and various other items as they headed to camp to free the caretaker family and neighbors from their situation. Karen and Chuck were able to plow the roads, get the equipment going and help the neighbors make it to town.

When Karen and Chuck returned, they brought plenty of photos which really showed the severity of the storm. I knew this would be a serious situation to get cleaned up and that it would take someone like Karen to lead the way. I asked her if she would shut her freight truck business down for a while and help us get the camp cleaned up. She graciously agreed to help get things turned around for us as her team began the three-month process of getting the camp cleaned up. It took a few weeks for the snow to melt and access the camp, but once it melted, they began the grueling task of cleaning the camp.

All of the sixteen downed trees had to be cut up and stacked then dried for future firewood for the camp.

Several trees had to be cut down that had been damaged. The tops of the trees for example had been lost or they were tilted ready to go over.

Branches, limbs, twigs, and needles carpeted the forest floor. Fortunately, Karen was a very handy with tractors and equipment and was able to use it to our advantage. She recommended we purchase a landscape rake from John Deere which we were able to pull behind the tractor which she then used to clean up the never-ending carpet of debris.

Outdoor School was scheduled to move in on March 8, 2009. It took all of January and February to complete the arduous task of cleaning the camp, but on March 7th, PGE came out and reconnected the power lines. The camp was shut from Christmas until March, the longest shut down in the history of the camp. Fortunately, we were able to reopen just as the Outdoor School was ready to move in.

Later in the year I had the opportunity to ask Karen if she would be interested in taking over the management of the camp as the Property Director. I was extremely blessed that she was ready to park the freight trucks and get back into property management. Our rentals set records with her management and service. The fields, building management and kitchen were all kicked up to a new level of service. I am very grateful to be working with my blood-sister, Karen at Camp Howard.

Getting Camp Howard in Shape


October 27, 2020

4 days till National Vocation Awareness Week

#21 in a series of 25 short stories

Camp Howard has always been a beloved camp to the youngsters who attend.  The most important thing to them is their friends they bring or make at camp and their counselors.  Those relationships mean the world to them.

To enhance that experience, however, the camp facilities need to be in good shape.  We found a camp in 1997 that had not been maintained in several years.  There was not a bit of paint inside or outside of the buildings, foliage had grown around the buildings and dirt gathered around the edges causing rot on the bottom of the buildings.  Time had taken its toll on the camp.

My first year with the organization 1997-1998, I worked on getting the lay of the land.  I could see where we could improve but money was tight especially after losing so much om the camp the previous summer.  I did an analysis of the sports and camp and realized we needed to increase fees by a lot and change the way we were doing business.  My mentor, Dick Weigel, coached me along as I did my work and helped me put a plan together to dig out of the hole.  It took three years to stop the financial hemorrhaging and we finally turned the corner after the camp season of 2000.

At the end of each camping season, we retained ten to twelve staff members who wanted extra work and paid them to help us work on a camp improvement project.  We began with one or two of the five units and each summer we would move to another unit to paint the exterior and do special repairs.  By the end of twelve years we had made it around all of the units and all of the major buildings three times and the facilities greatly improved.  I felt we were finally on top of our delayed maintenance.  We have continued the end of camp maintenance projects for 24 years and it has been life changing for the facilities.

We cleaned the roofs every year and in the early days, I cleaned them myself as we did not have money to spend on anyone to come up and do it.  The feeling of satisfaction was never ending.  Everything we did was an improvement!

PHOTOS:  Before and after photos of 1997 cabin vs 2020 (St. Cecilia cabin in Fircrest Unit at Camp Howard.

Local University of Portland Student Wins National Best!


Congratulations @_kyle_garcia for earning 1st place in the College Media Association’s Pinnacle Awards 2019-2020, Best Sports Columnist for the University of Portland, The Beacon @UPBeacon.

CYO/Camp Howard is very proud of this former CYO participant for achieving this outstanding award! What’s next, Kyle?

Welcome to CYO/Camp Howard


October 26, 2020

5 days till National Vocation Awareness Week

#20 in a series of 25 short stories

Left to Right: Krista von Borstel with Dar the Nurse, Wilma, Noryn, Myrna & Sandi the outgoing CYO/CH staff.

July 18, 1997, I walked into the CYO/Camp Howard office for the first time as an employee.  The day coincided with my Mom’s birthday so an easy date to remember.  I shadowed the Executive Director until September 1st, the beginning of the fiscal year.  I learned a ton during those three months and felt very fortunate to have the opportunity to learn from the sitting director.  I also realized we had a mess on our hands.  Relationships with Catholic entities such as the Catholic Sentinel did not exist.  There were no Catholics in the Catholic Youth Organization!  Not that everyone needs to be Catholic but with a name like that, someone should be!  There was a lot of dysfunction everywhere and I realized silently within myself that things needed cleaned up and it would take some time to get it to where it needed to be.

There are so many things I would like to say but feel it would be inappropriate in this format.  Suffice it to say, we rolled up our sleeves and got to work.  I found another mentor, this time a business mentor, in Dick Weigel, the Executive Board chair.  His daytime job was helping businesses liquidate that were not making it or helping them get back on their feet.  Camp Howard had just lost $127,000 at camp that summer so we were the perfect business for a guy like Dick.

Vocation awareness comment:  There were moments that had me shaking in my boots again, but each time I knew I had to confront the situations because if I didn’t who would?  I kept asking myself that question.  I continued to be grateful for the time to be able to spend in cleaning things up, but it was a daunting task that took me about 8 years to completely turn around.

Leaving the High School for CYO/Camp Howard


October 25, 2020

6 days till National Vocation Awareness Week

#19 in a series of 25 short stories

During my last two years at Valley Catholic High School I was Vice Principal and Athletic Director.  Weekend events and weekday meetings kept me very busy.  Serving on the board at CYO/CH was eye opening to me as I had never had experiences with the organization other than reading about it in the Catholic Sentinel.

I had no intention of leaving the high school and would have been content to get my 50-year pin there.  I loved the school and being a part of the happenings there.  God had other plans for me, however, and when God calls, he always lays out a perfect plan.  At the end of two years on the board I had helped clean up some messes that were the result of poor leadership.  The board asked me if I would consider taking on leadership of the organization and I had to do some soul searching.  I was very comfortable at Valley Catholic, on campus, close to home, easily able to handle the conflict at this point in my life…God had me right where he wanted me, ready for the next assignment!

At the end of the 1997 school year, I said goodbye to a lot of great people whom I had worked with for many years.  It was terribly hard for me to leave the school.  I had gone from brand new teacher to the inner workings of administration.  I had a perspective and vision that 15 years at an institution can bring merely through experience with a wide variety of situations.   I was writing databases on a new program called “Filemaker” that I purchased at Egg Head Software.  AOL was just getting a good start in the tech world.  CYO/Camp Howard did not have a computer yet.

I was moving from second line administration to first line where the buck stops here.  Fortunately, I knew the board members well, and they were great people.  I was about to get a look from the inside out and what I would find was not pretty. 

  • I spent the time from 1997 through 2001 outside of the community of the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon.  I returned July 26, 2001 on the feast of St. Anne.  I helped with family issues at this time and lived with my mother, Cynthia, in Hazeldale, WA.

Vocation awareness comment:  We are all called to a vocation whether it be marriage, single life, priestly life or religious life. 

Becoming Vice Principal


October 23, 2020

8 days till National Vocation Awareness Week

#18 in a series of 25 short stories

1986 through 1997 Vice Principal at St. Mary of the Valley / Valley Catholic High School

I was happy as a clam teaching at St. Mary of the Valley High School.  I was minding my own business, doing my own thing when all of a sudden, Sister Alberta retired from her position as Vice Principal to move on to less demanding work at the convent as religious women do not use the word “retirement”.  Sister Alberta had a formidable presence standing 6’2” tall with a great poker face when she needed it.  Most of the time she was laughing and telling stories but when something needed dealt with, she could put on the façade of serious business.

During Christmas break the year prior to her “retirement” three students showed up at school three sheets to the wind and one of them “lost their cookies” at my classroom door.  I remember Sr. Alberta having to deal with that issue the entire Chrismas break.  I thought to myself, “I could never do that.”  You guessed it, the following fall, I was “it” and I was terrified.

Chuck Lee was principal at the time and I thoroughly enjoyed working with him.  My first major case came not too long after the beginning of school when a couple of girls (we were still all girl at the time) were smoking behind the gym.  I gave them all of seven minutes to get to my office which should have taken them less than one minute.  I had to go ask Chuck Lee what we were going to do now!  J  I like to tell this story because it illustrates so perfectly the fact that we don’t know how to do some of our jobs immediately and it takes a little time to learn. 

I went to Chucks office and told him what was going on and asked him, “what now?”  He told me to bring them to his office and he would talk to them.  I brought the girls to his office, they were scared to death, so was I.  I am pretty sure I was shaking but they didn’t know that.  Chuck could not have been kinder to them.  He was firm, had a good conversation with them and suspended them for three days.  I learned a lot in that encounter, and I liked the way he dealt with the situation.  He was a wonderful mentor to me, and I have always appreciated those years working with him.

I will say over the course of the next 10 years in that role, I learned to deal with all sorts of situations.  Every encounter gave me an opportunity to help someone get back on track and find their way again.  In addition to what any of my actions may have done to help others, the role developed my courage and confidence.  Hard as it was initially, I have encouraged people to take on similar roles, such as sport officials to help develop the spine.  Those jobs have the potential to make us better and stronger people.

Final Vows with the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon August 15, 1987


2020

20 days till National Vocation Awareness Week

I remember 1987 like it was yesterday, a very special year in my life after making my final vow 30 day retreat the year prior in the Napa Valley in California.  I was so blessed to have taken part in that experience. A few of the Sisters, Brothers and Priests that made that retreat with me, joined me for my special day.   My family and friends were also there and that made for a remarkably great day that I will never forget.

Leading up to the day, the year prior, however, included much soul searching.  Was this what I wanted to do with the rest of my life?  To me a vow was a very important promise and especially one made to God.  Did I want to forego the opportunity to be married and have children?  That was a big one for me.  As it turned out, I got my share of time with my nieces and nephews and every one of them were a blessing to me.  God is not outdone in His generosity!

I have always known I made the right decision because the vocation I chose was one that amplified life for me.  I have been so blessed to live this life and come into contact with the hundreds of people I have come to know.

Our vocation is a very important decision.  More people do not answer the call to religious life than do.  If you are thinking this might be an option for you, do yourself a favor and explore it.

Photo: Left to Right: Fr. Louis Urbanski, Archbishop William Leveda (RIP), Fr. Willis Whalen (RIP), Fr. John Dunn (RIP).

Family Photo: David Polehn (Nephew), Melissa von Borstel (niece), Lee von Borstel (Brother), Kay von Borstel, (Sister), Linda Hawman von Borstel, Larry von Borstel (Brother), Bill Chambers, Karla von Borstel Chambers (Sister), Me, Karen von Borstel, (Sister), Top Dad and Mom Carl and Cynthia von Borstel

FINAL VOWS


October 21, 2020

8 days till National Vocation Awareness Week

#17 in a series of 25 short stories

Final Vows with the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon August 15, 1987

I remember 1987 like it was yesterday, a very special year in my life after making my final vow 30 day retreat the year prior in the Napa Valley in California.  I was so blessed to have taken part in that experience. A few of the Sisters, Brothers and Priests that made that retreat with me, joined me for my special day.   My family and friends were also there and that made for a remarkably great day that I will never forget.

Leading up to the day, the year prior, however, included much soul searching.  Was this what I wanted to do with the rest of my life?  To me a vow was a very important promise and especially one made to God.  Did I want to forego the opportunity to be married and have children?  That was a big one for me.  As it turned out, I got my share of time with my nieces and nephews and every one of them were a blessing to me.  God is not outdone in His generosity!

I have always known I made the right decision because the vocation I chose was one that amplified life for me.  I have been so blessed to live this life and come into contact with the hundreds of people I have come to know.

Our vocation is a very important decision.  More people do not answer the call to religious life than do.  If you are thinking this might be an option for you, do yourself a favor and explore it.

Photo: Left to Right: Fr. Louis Urbanski, Archbishop William Leveda (RIP), Fr. Willis Whalen (RIP), Fr. John Dunn (RIP).

Family Photo: David (Nephew), Melissa (niece), Lee von Borstel (Brother), Kay von Borstel, (Sister), Linda Hawman von Borstel, Larry von Borstel (Brother), Bill Chambers, Karla von Borstel Chambers (Sister), Me, Karen von Borstel, (Sister), Top Dad and Mom (Carl and Cynthia von Borstel)