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.