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Patrick Graber, Author at Bethany Birches Camp

Author Archive

Winter Camp Update (02/09/2021)

Dear Camper Parents,

I write to you with breaking news that is hard for me to share: we just learned that the Health Department made new policy and will not allow our resident camp program this winter.  This news is hours old at time of writing this post.

How did we get here?

  • I consulted with the Health Department in late November about our winter programming.  A representative from the department noted that our plans seemed in line with the guidance they have set forth and as safe as one can be right now.
  • I was instructed to follow the Governor’s orders, be aware of the law, and then make choices.  In mid December, after reviewing all the available guidance and executive order again, and finding solutions for how to eat and sleep safely, we decided to open registration for resident winter camp for 21 campers at a time with a mostly outdoor schedule.
  • A school nurse recently inquired (last week?) with the Health Department as to whether a child who attends Bethany Birches winter camp would need to quarantine before coming back to school.  Officials felt that section 8.2 of the WorkSafe guidance did not have a good enough answer.  As a state lawyer described it to me, he felt our overnight winter programs did not fit neatly into any of the ACCD guidance for Governor Scott’s executive order.  He noted that our plans seemed very creative and worthy of consideration and that we should submit a request to the Health Department.
  • They reviewed our request.  There was discussion between high ranking representatives from ACCD, Health Dept., and Bethany Birches.
  • Feb 9 in the late afternoon, I received notice that our resident camps were not allowed at the moment.  This was a policy the Health Dept. just created: no resident camps for February.

Needless to say, we are somewhat stunned at this updated policy/guidance.  Especially when our operating procedures seem safer than what I observe in many public places.  I try to remember how much stress some of our government officials are experiencing, and that gives me grace toward them.  More so than being stunned, I am sad and disheartened.  We were so excited to welcome your child to camp, and to stimulate hope and love and joy… and share some of this deep fluffy snow!

Given the timeline it was important to me that we get you this information immediately.

What’s next?

  • Money: tomorrow we will reach out about your preference.  You will have three options.  Roll your payment to summer camp, get a full refund, transfer your payment to a donation.
  • Winter Camp: we will consider whether we can offer any day programming this winter, or, open our facility to you so your family can come to ice skate, ski, tube, etc.
  • Summer Camp: it sounds like we may be invited to help craft guidance for resident programs in Vermont for summer 2021.  This is good news for BBC families because it means that we will have early awareness of the new rules and be able to best prepare for what is quite likely to be another strange year.  Registration for summer camp 2021 is open.  Many have already registered.  If you have not, you can find your session here.

Let me know of any questions, comments, and ideas. In the meantime give your kiddo a hug from me and the other camp staff.  We miss them and hope they are finding ways to thrive.

Sincerely,

Brandon “Tuna” Bergey
Bethany Birches Camp
Executive Director

Nevin J. Bender, BBC’s First Camp Director, Joins The Great Cloud Of Witnesses

Ask those who were on staff or came to camp as campers in the 1960s and 70s about their Bethany  Birches experience and they will almost certainly reference the rustic and challenging moments that became so deeply engraved in their memories. Back then, the Bethany Birches experience had to be rustic and challenging. Camp was just getting started and there were minimal dollars being invested and limited machines and tools to use to carve the camp out of a grown-over farm. Those missing dollars and machines weren’t important to Nevin Bender. He and his family were called into action by a sense of vocation, faith, and by Lloyd and Alice Moyer. Quite literally, when the Moyers had the idea to open Bethany Birches they asked Nevin to run the camp. He said yes and was the first camp director serving from 1965 to 1980.

Nevin J. Bender passed away this summer. His willingness to forge Bethany Birches with minimal resources created a lasting culture and while he has recently joined the great cloud of witnesses (see Hebrews 12:1), his mark was made and is still visible today, here at camp. You can see his personality and work in the Core Values of BBC. We named our core values just last year after conducting research with many different stakeholders (over 150). The core values are found in this word picture. Interestingly, in 2010 Marcia Bender (one of Nevin’s daughters) was asked what she felt was important to her father. In her reply she touched on community building, learning to trust each other, nature, building consensus and trying new ideas. Here we see the values she saw in her father’s behavior match some of the camp’s core values. At a dinner in 2008 Nevin was honored at his place of work and his colleague, Will Hairston said of Bender, “Nevin’s passionate faith, intense work ethic and model of service have been an inspiration to all.”

Weaving these two comments we get a sense that our core values are closely linked to who Nevin was. Here at BBC we use the phrase “With Over Watch.” It was coined by Michael Brandwein and is a comment about leadership, influence, and how to have a relationship. You don’t “watch” a 10-year-old from afar and expect to have much influence, or connection with each other, you go to be “with” them! It is by being together that individuals get to know each other, have shared experiences, and influence one another. Nevin was a “with” kinda guy! You see that in Marcia’s comments about her father and the stories that abound of Nevin connecting with others, leading from among the various camper and staff groups. I have met many people who shared about the influence Nevin had in their life.

Here we are today, still working with fewer resources than many organizations have, still cooking over the fire as they did that first year, and still our Directors spend a lot of time “with” people. We see relationships and community building as central to how we go about our mission just as Nevin did. We trust that God enters in the midst of this special camp experience, just as Nevin did. Today we are thankful that God (and the Moyers!) called upon the Bender family and thankful for their service. Nevin, please continue to be “with” us from the great cloud of witnesses!

When Nevin passed, his wife Lourene requested that gifts be made to Bethany Birches in lieu of flowers and gifts to the family. Please join her and many others in giving to the camp in memory of Nevin. Learn more about Nevin at www.bethanybirches.org/Nevin

 

~ Brandon “Tuna” Bergey,
Executive Director

Shifting From Receiving To Giving… Yet Still Receiving

 

Having been a camper at Bethany Birches for six summers (and a Counselor In Training for one), I knew that I wanted to be a counselor eventually, and I finally got that opportunity last summer, as the youngest member of the 2019 summer staff. Camp had always been one of my favorite places in the world. At camp I always felt like I could connect with God. Interestingly, my first staff experience was a lot like what I expected it to be. However, “being on the other side” of camp helped me better appreciate how special Bethany Birches is. Even if I sometimes struggle with my faith while at home, I can always see how God is working at camp.

As a camper, the main feeling that I experienced was joy, regardless of what I was doing. During my time as a counselor, things were more topsy turvy than I remember them as a camper. I enjoy working with kids (one of the main reasons I applied!), and the skill I improved the most over the summer was patience. Whenever I was stressed out, I would take a deep breath and remember: I’m not just doing this for myself. I often remember that when I was a camper, I got a little sad when my counselor went on break. Now, even though I love being with my cabin, I get a little excited whenever I get to take a break, partially because I know that it gives me time to relax, making me better at my job once I go back. The further into the summer I got, I noticed how some of my campers reminded me of my younger self, which gave me great joy. It’s always good to know that whatever you are doing, it can ultimately have an impact on someone — and that’s what I think I enjoyed the most about working at camp. Being a camper was constant fun, every single day, but being a counselor still contained many of the great joys of camp. From the pig trough to hikes to the treehouses, many of my camp experiences remained the same, but being able to lead others made them far more rewarding.

 

~ Ryan “Michi” Smith, Assistant Counselor

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