September 24, 2020
Greetings from YMCA of the Pines!
Now that our summer camp season has ended, I wanted to provide an update recapping the 2020 summer, and looking ahead to the 2020 – 2021 school year.
2020 SUMMER CAMP RECAP
This was a unique summer, but our staff did a fantastic job collaborating and delivering impactful summer camp experiences at a time when our campers and their families needed us most. Our staff went above and beyond by developing creative ways to approach camp differently while still giving campers a sense of normalcy. We’re proud to announce that we ended the summer with zero suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19 amongst campers or staff!
When we learned that overnight camps could not operate in New Jersey, Matt, Charlotte, and Christine built Camp Matocky, a coed, extended-day program, and brought it together in a matter of weeks to serve as an option for our Ockanickon and Matollionequay campers.
We successfully operated four sessions (6 days/week) of Camp Matocky which offered campers an opportunity to experience opening and closing ceremonies, enjoy two meals daily at camp, and interact with our camp world this summer. In total, Camp Matocky achieved 362 camper weeks.
Lake Stockwell Day Camp
Lynn and Jose ended up operating nine weeks of Lake Stockwell Day Camp, serving 2,522 total camper weeks between our Preschool Camp, Upper/Lower Camp, Explorers, and CITs!
This truly was a fantastic summer at Lake Stockwell Day Camp. Lynn and her team did an amazing job managing and coordinating logistics for a high-enrollment program amid COVID-19 restrictions and health protocols. The team did everything with a smile, and made hundreds of camp families feel at ease sending their kids to camp, knowing that we were operating safely and following all health protocols. We had numerous parents reach out to us throughout the summer and tell us that camp was the saving grace in what was the most stressful six months their family had ever experienced, and that their camper “camper came out of their shell” that the quarantine had put them in, after a few days of camp.
2020 – 2021 SCHOOL YEAR PROGRAMMING
Family Camp Weekends
As I write this blog post, we have completed three of our four scheduled September family camp weekends. The activities for the weekends were designed such that parents and children felt challenged and were able to experience the joy of accomplishing something that took focus and creativity. To watch families do this in a natural setting after so many months cooped up in quarantine, just added to the joy the families experienced while at camp.
Matocky Family Camp Weekend was a new offering which allowed families an opportunity to enter the summer camp word together as a family unit. The weekend included elements from the popular Elder Quest, including a hunt for the Matocky Block, Open-World Stargazing (an immersive scavenger hunt around the camp property), the Golden Bow, the Lure of the Lake, the Spirit Wand, and so much more!
Currently, our School’s Out program is operating in all of our districts (Medford, Medford Lakes, Tabernacle, and Shamong). Enrollment is drastically lower due to the higher number of students opting out of in-person instruction, and families making alternate child care arrangements due to changing work situations. Although the program is not currently covering operating costs, our mission MUST come first. We commit to operating the program to give children in our communities a safe, supportive environment. We will also continue offering financial aid and scholarships to ensure YMCA programs are accessible to all.
Additionally, in July we applied through the NJ Dept. of Children and Families to obtain a child care license for our YMCA of the Pines camp facility to provide a remote-learning space for students on days they are not in school. We believe that a program operated at our camp facility would benefit the community as we would be able to offer an extensive outdoor component to the program when the remote instruction ends, and utilize our experience operating a successful emergency child care program from the spring, and summer camp programs from the summer.
To help meet our long-term goals, we have made the strategic decision to invest close to $20,000 to obtain the license in order to meet the conditions outlined by the State. Unfortunately, the process is extremely slow and we do not have any answers or timelines from the State. Our hope is that the license comes through in October to allow us to begin offering child care and remote-learning support at our camp facility throughout the duration of the school year.
To support this goal, we will be launching a child care-focused fundraising campaign in the coming days. Please stay tuned for more information on this campaign, as we do all that we can to support our local community during these uncertain times.
Moving Forward This Fall
Our fall conference and retreat season has essentially been cancelled through the remainder of 2020 due the COVID-19 pandemic. The bulk of our conference season consists of school groups, and schools are not currently attending field trips. We have shifted our bookings to the spring of 2021 in hopes that the world is in a better place at that point. Come spring time, we will either be very busy, or again have a very quiet property depending on whether schools are permitted to resume trips.
Further, due to the pandemic, it is unlikely that we host other fall and winter traditions such as Breakfast with Santa, Chef Jason’s pie-making class, and our free Family Dinner Nights.
Unfortunately, due to the lack of fall programming, and a greatly reduced School’s Out program, we have furloughed or reduced the hours of many of our year-round staff. Given the uncertainty of the future, along with the reduced programming and revenue, the decision was made to ensure our organization can maintain long-term viability. We are covering 100% of the benefits for furloughed staff through the end of the year (as long as our insurance provider allows), and sincerely hope to have everyone back on board as soon as possible.
Simply put, our staff are heroes for the work they did to provide a camp experience this summer. While we have no control over the pandemic and its effect on our operations in general, we are doing all that we can to explore alternate sources of revenue and programming to serve our local community moving forward. To the extent that these other options allow us to bring staff back on or increase hours, we look forward to doing so.
A FINAL NOTE
I wanted to end by thanking our families, staff, and alumni for the outpouring of support that we (the organization and as individuals) have received during these difficult times. Although we were one of the few camps in New Jersey operating during the pandemic this summer, we never felt alone. The support that our camp community showed, from donations to friendly notes, phone calls, and words of encouragement, each act of kindness helped us all power forward during times when the hurdles were both frequent and tall.
I am proud of the work that our staff did, both our year-round staff and our seasonal staff, who at one point or another served as counselors, hosts, activity instructors, food service workers, and/or professional cleaners (this applied to literally everyone this summer). The resolve our staff and organization showed in 2020 leaves me beaming with confidence that we will be able to thrive during the 2021 summer – regardless of what camp looks like next year.
As always, please feel free to contact me with any questions or comments. I am happy to talk further about our programs, our future, or anything else! Until we next connect, thank you for reading, please stay safe, and wear a mask! 🙂
Chief Operating Officer
YMCA of the Pines
609.654.8225 | GregK@ycamp.org