Strong Relationships at Heart of Camp Partnerships

MERCER, PA -- The clothes for our Camp's staff and volunteers will be a little bit cleaner this summer thanks to two very generous gifts the Camp recently received.

The first gift of $1,300 was given by the PTO of our St. John the Baptist parish in Perth Amboy, New Jersey. Very Reverend Protopresbyter Michael Rosco is the priest at St. John's. Mary Ann Delcher is the president of the St. John's PTO. The second gift of $5,620 was given by the Episcopal Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania. The Rt. Rev. Sean Rowe is the Bishop of this Diocese which has been coming to Camp for a week each summer since the Camp opened in 1977. With these two gifts the Camp has been able to install 4 new stacked washers and dryers in the laundry facilities of the Staff Lodge in the same space where the previous units were located without taking up any more of the room. The carpentry and electrical and plumping work was done by the Camp's Maintenance Man, Lee Loutzenhiser, who is a "jack-of-all-trades" and a very skilled worker.

What needs to be mentioned first is the deepening relationship between one of our Diocesan parishes and our campers and Camp. Thanks to that ever-deepening relationship, not just because their children attend Camp, not just because their parish Priest is an advocate for Camp, and not just because the Camp takes good care of their children, but because time is spent developing that relationship, the Camp and St. John's can partner in a project of this sort to improve our Camp facility. The support, at this level, from one of our Diocesan parishes does not happen simply by accident. It happens by cultivating a genuine relationship rooted in faith and built up by a common commitment. Talk of this nature about one of our Diocesan parishes is not meant to provoke another. It is meant to show us what we can accomplish together when we form the relationships and partnerships we are meant to as Orthodox Christians, as parishes and as a Diocese. Relationships and partnerships of this sort have existed in our Diocese since before the Camp was around, since the Camp has been around, and up to this point. We need to highlight them, thank God for them, and do all we can to encourage them.

What also needs to be mentioned is the relationship we have with the Episcopal Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania, its Bishop, its staff and its campers. They have been attending Camp Nazareth since it was opened in 1977 and over that time they have benefited from our Camp and we have benefited from their youth ministry. However, in addition to that business relationship, what has also developed is the recognition of a mutual ministry and a mutual concern for our youth. Because of that recognition (the common work each of our Churches is doing) it is safe to say we have formed a relationship which goes beyond the business one, and unites us in a common commitment to our youth. The Diocese, the Camp and the Camp Staff have always taken great care of our Camp facility and we have always tried to be excellent hosts. The Diocese of NW PA for their part has always respected the Camp. In a sense, we have grown up together. As a result, in 3 of the last 4 years, under the leadership of Bishop Sean Rowe, the Episcopal Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania has contributed nearly $20,000 to the Camp above and beyond what it already pays in camper fees. Their most recent gift has been used to complete the laundry facility project. Again, that $20,000 is above and beyond what it pays in order to use the Camp facility. In a real way their Diocese has become a model for what we are always striving for within the Orthodox Church – partnerships which show a real and genuine commitment to a unified ministry. We are grateful to God for their use of the Camp, but more importantly we are grateful to God for their friendship and their willingness to partner with the Camp to make it a better place for all our youth.

At this point, we have moved beyond a mere project at our Diocesan Camp, and have highlighted what is more important: the relationships and partnerships we must form for the sake of our youth; relationships and partnerships that are rooted in faith and based upon a common commitment.

However, to also show the very practical aspect of this project a little more history is necessary.

This project was identified as a need of the Camp after last year's camping season. Each year the staff goes through an Exit Interview process where it both meets as a group together with the Camp Administrator and then individually with the Camp Administrator. One of the key needs identified by the staff was simply having more time in the day to be with the campers. It sounds surprising, but if you are a parent, if you've been a Camp counselor, or if you in any way work with children, you will understand the staff's concern. The counseling staff at Camp is asked to accomplish the impossible: be with your campers 24/7 AND run all the aspects of the camping program; develop a relationship with each camper AND develop and run all the activities during the camp week. After some discussion, together the staff and the Camp Administrator identified the simple process of doing laundry as a time concern both during the week and on the weekends.

Prior to the laundry facility project, there were only two washers and two dryers for the entire Camp Staff. That amounts to one washer and dryer for every 14 staff members (not including the staff of our user groups). Given the time constraints of a typical camp day and the exhausting nature of the work involved, one washer and dryer for every 14 staff members was causing the staff to "cut" into their work time and their already limited break time. By installing more laundry units, the goal is to reduce the amount of time (waiting and washing) spent doing laundry, and give the staff more opportunity to be with their campers. The added benefit is that the units are frontload washers and both the washers and dryers are energy star rated which will means both a reduced water and electric bill; practical for the staff, which benefits the campers, and practical for Camp itself.

The Diocese and the Camp express gratitude to the PTO of our parish of St. John the Baptist in Perth Amboy and to the Episcopal Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania for their contributions to this project. It is also important to simply thank them for their friendship and their willingness to partner with the Camp as we minister together to our youth. Above all, we thank God for these relationships and we ask Him to bless them and deepen them as together we seek to help our children cultivate a deep and abiding relationship with Him.