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Summer Camps of Faith Communities - By Emma Maple

Camps took time to make improvements

United Methodist campers go on a hike.

By Emma Maple

This year's Northwest United Methodist Church (UMC) camps are enthusiastic about a gradual return to the camp environments they had been used to pre-pandemic, said Alan Rogstad, executive director for camp and retreat ministries for the Pacific Northwest UMC Conference.

Four Methodist camps are in Alan's jurisdiction in Washington and Idaho: Twinlow Camp and Retreat Center near Coeur d'Alene; the Lazy F Methodist Camp in Ellensburg, Camp Indianola in Indianola, and Ocean Park Retreat Center and Methodist Camp in Ocean Park.

In 2020, the camps were shut down because of COVID. They used that year to improve the grounds. In 2021, they re-opened at a reduced capacity and with strict COVID regulations.

These two years, while tough with the loss of operating income, had what Alan called "unintended benefits."

"The break allowed us to do maintenance and projects we wouldn't otherwise have been able to when we were running summer programs. There have been quite a few improvements these past two years. All our camps have had significant facility improvements."

For 2022, camps are moving towards pre-pandemic status but still following COVID rules.

"We're in the mode of restarting our standard camp programs," Alan reported. "The camps are in line with what we've done in the past, but with alterations to be mindful that COVID is still with us."

For example, campers will eat meals outside and have outdoor activities whenever possible.

"We seek to do that anyway, but this time, it's now even more important," said Alan.

They're also tweaking capacities of some camps to ensure social distancing to make it a little safer for campers when they're in their cabins, he said, predicting attendance will be about three fourths what it was in 2019.

The four camps are following the Center for Disease Control and American Camp Association guidelines for camps and overnight programs.

Recruiting staff for the year has been a challenge. Most camp organizations and especially Christian camps are reporting challenges finding staff as they did last year, he reported, noting that small businesses are also struggling to find people for hospitality and service-oriented roles.

"That said, we have the staff we need. It's just taken a lot of work this year," he said.

Alan also expects camps may experience some culture shift in coming years. Shutdowns of the past few summers led many families to fill their time with other activities, rather than sending their kids to camp.

"Now family camps are bigger," he said. "Families want to come as a unit, not just send their kids. We're taking advantage of that and offering those types of camps.

"For now, the focus is that camps are back open, operating and doing what they do well," Alan said. "Our theme this summer is "What's in a Name?"

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Copyright@ The Fig Tree, June, 2022