By: “H” Rothenberg Co Owner & Director 6/7/14
As a camp director, I often get asked, “What do you do the rest of the year?” I normally respond with, “We operate groups year round on our ropes course and offer nature and science programs to School and Scout groups.” However, what we do most is spend nine months preparing for three. That to me is an amazing statistic. Where else in the world do you spend nine months preparing for three? Not even in pro sports does that ratio come into play.
During the “off season” we spend time promoting camp, marketing to and recruiting campers. Improving the property which this winter included paving Camp Road. We also give about 100 tours. We interview, check references and hire staff as a big part of our preparations. We even go to many of our summer campers sporting events, plays, and community happenings. All part of preparing for these magical three months. We have been pretty fortunate that over the last 15 years we have lived on the grounds of Triple C Camp and even taken some great vacations during the months of November & December when our camp families and staff are not as interested or engaged in thinking camp.
We are also fortunate that we have time to volunteer. Libby has been a dedicated volunteer to the Scouting Movement. First, she was our daughters Troop Leader and Service Unit Coordinator for the Monticello region of Virginia Girl Scouts. The last several years she has been the Program Coordinator for our sons Boy Scout Troop. My volunteer work used to be on the basketball court as I help found VABA’s Developmental Basketball League. The last couple of years I have been serving the American Camp Association as the Professional Development Chair for The Virginias which hosts three conferences a year with about 125 people at each conference. Also, during this time, Libby will enjoy reading a book on the beach and I definitely enjoy time on the golf course with the quest to obtain the perfect golf shot. This too is preparation for the three months of summer.
Well, those three months this year have been shortened just a little bit due to old man winter. However, now the time has come. This Monday (June 9) we will have over 100 campers in camp. Our returning staff will be working with those campers while our first year staff members (and a few returners) will be in staff training. The following week we will be closer to our average of 275 campers. Staff training for me is the most important week of the year. All the conferences we attend, the trainings, the reviewing of the cutting edge child development strategies all come down to this critical week of training. Of course one of things I’ve learned this year is that training doesn’t take place just during training week, we are training the staff all summer long in our daily morning meetings and our two in services we schedule each summer.
The past two weeks have been filled with Life Guard Training, Ropes Course Training, preparing the camp grounds, International Staff arriving, and other preparations for the greatest summer ever! Now, the time has come. The fences are painted, the grass is cut, the green is on the trees and our Leadership Team is prepared for the summer of 2014. A lot goes into preparing for a summer. However, it does not compare to the summer itself.
This summer we will average about 275 campers a week and 70 staff who will grow and develop our campers through the activities we offer. Many people look at summer day camp as child care. Our focus has always been to train our staff to develop each individual child. Each year we look for new and innovative ways for staff to connect with the campers and peel back the layers of each child to help them grow into better young people and specifically more responsible and confident young adults. Every child has some thing to offer. Something special that the staff can make a connection and lead them toward a great path.
This summer we have “GUIDE” on the back our Staff members shirts that they will wear each Monday. We hope that our staff recognize their role as a guide through this experience. Parents are giving the most prescious thing in their lives to us… their child. We must guide the children toward the goal of taking steps to become a better friend, and growth and development of the whole person. This is a responsibility we do not take lightly. If you have an extra few moments this summer, please make the effort to be a GUIDE to someone in your life. Whether it be a child or a peer. The opportunity will be there. You have great gifts to share, please share them with those around you.
Here at camp, we will be busy with buses, activities, food service, staff soccer matches, flag ceremonies, and so much more. Please come by and visit us some time and see the magic of camp in action. There is plenty to see during our three months that are not to be missed. Come be part of the action, and help Guide to “MAKE IT A GREAT ONE!”
By “H” Rothenberg Co-Owner/Director
Overnight camps have a long standing history of hiring international staff. Back in “the old days” International staff came to the U.S. to hang out with some kids, work a little bit, party a little bit and sometimes would even go up to Canada, then reenter the U.S. with a new visa. Easy Peasy. Not such the case anymore.
Today, they have to pay several hundred dollars in program fees to a company to help organize a visa. They must make an appointment sometimes a thousand miles from their home at an U.S. embassy, they must be excepted into the program and they must leave the country on a designated date. If any of these procedures are not adhered to, they get red flagged and may not be able to come back into the U.S….ever!
Then there is the camp side of things. We have a relationship with a U.S. placement coordinator. We review applications, we interview prospective staff members on the phone or skype. We have many levels of follow up interview questions, references, back ground checks, etc. We pay the agency a fee for the staff member and a sevis fee. It is all pretty complicated and as a camp, we MUST provide room and board. All just for international staff??
ABSOLUTELY! One of the greatest joys is seeing the friendships and long lasting relationships that develop amongst our staff. Most far outlast the summer. Some have even gotten engaged and married. We also have many staff that return year after year from England, South Africa, Australia, Russia, etc. It’s one thing when a staff member who grew up in Charlottesville returns for two or three years, however this summer will be Skooby’s sixth summer. Pretty special. She has become another daughter for me and Libby and an amazing big sister to so many of our campers. This year Loz from OZ will also be returning for her fourth summer after taking last year off she will be back. Travis Yuille is on his fourth year from South Africa. We also have 2nd and 3rd year barn staff from Australia (Kasey & Sasha) and Ben W. & Benny P. on their third years from England! It amazes me.
The camp really benefits. Not only do our campers get to learn about different accents, cultures, experiences, etc. we learn games from other countries like netball, cricket and touch rugby. Our international staff are the backbone of our camp and are so dedicated and committed to our campers, it is very special.
Another special aspect is the way our camp families and staff open their hearts and their homes to our international staff. Many invitations for dinner at an American home is a big deal for our staff from over seas. The average age of our international staff is 24 years old and they really want to learn about American Culture. On many occasions, our American staff’s families have invited many staff to their home to meet their extended families. All around pretty fantastic.
I could not imagine TRIPLE C CAMP without our international staff. Now in our fifteenth summer, they have become a staple of our camp and we have hundreds of friends around the world that we would not have otherwise. We look forward to this summer with great joy to work with the children, and to welcome our friends from over seas for another fabulous experience!
By: “H” Rothenberg Co Owner/Director
You may remember the winter of 2009. On a cold, wintery, snowy morning Libby and I woke up to a loud noise outside our bedroom window that sounded like a car accident on route 20. It was not a car accident…after looking out the window we saw the camp “STUDIO” had completely collapsed due to snow load. This was such a bummer. I got dressed, went outside and walked around the now demolished building. There were pieces of glass, timber, crayons and t-shirts everywhere. My next thought was about the other buildings in camp. I did a quick inspection and realized that the Dining Hall was collapsing. The roof was falling in and the walls were pushing out. We contacted a friend who is a contractor who quickly came to our rescue. We put up large 6×6’s to support the building up…which worked. Alas, the Studio had collapsed, but we saved the Dining Hall.
The next day we had the builder who had rebuilt cabin 5 (TEAL Construction) come and work with us on estimates to repair the Dining Hall and completely rebuild the Studio. Our insurance company wasn’t happy, however they did help us through the process. We found out the Dining Hall really needed a tremendous amount of work and we needed it ready for camp in quick time. Uggggghhhhhh….. TEAL was amazing! They got the snow off the roof, removed the old roof, straightened the walls, put in reinforcement studs, and put on a new roof. Then put in insulation so that if we ever winterized the Dining Hall, we are set to go there. Then re painted the entire building. WOW! The Dining Hall looks amazing. Little things got done too like new electrical wiring as the old wiring was cloth and the current code made things much safer for our campers.
When it came to the Studio, we were going to start from scratch, so the builder asked us what we wanted our plan to be? We had just started Green Adventure Project a non profit 501c3 on the grounds of TRIPLE C CAMP. We looked at this as a great opportunity and began to mix the lemonade!
We worked with TEAL and Albemarle County to build a new Green Building along with EarthCraft on our property. We now call it the NEST (Nature Environment Science & Technology). Campers and year round participants have a home base on the property for Nature and Science programming. Inside the NEST there is a giant Newton’s Cradle made with bowling balls, trebuchets, loads of animals especially my buddy Hercules who is a Red Footed Tortoise. There is also a teaching mural with over 85 different plants and animals that are indigenous to central Virginia. This is a great teaching opportunity where we begin to learn inside and then the magic really happens when we go outside to learn on our 43 acres on our fields, streams, creeks, etc. If camp families or corporations are interested, they can sponsor an animal by trophic level and these dollars help with Green Adventure Project Scholarships.
This whole experience was a learning and growing opportunity for us. Stuff happens. When it does, don’t freak out about it. Figure out what you can and make it better. Physically, emotionally, and experientially. And remember to enjoy the lemonade…come to the NEST, it tastes so good!
By: “H” Rothenberg Triple C Camp Co-Owner and Director
When we bought Triple C Camp in 1999, Libby and I realized that a day camp is very different than the overnight camps we used to direct in the midwest.
Day camp has many of the same activities, facilities, philosophies and fun as overnight camp….however we felt this was going to be a bit different. Now, we have owned Triple C for 15 years, and I liken day camp to the wind sprint and overnight camp to the marathon. Both are running, however very different. Training is different, the participants are different, the fees are different staff’s complete focus is different and even the landscape is often very different.
Another major difference is the vision for the parents. We hear from parents on the phone all the time that say, “I need five or six weeks of child care this summer.” This always leaves a distaste in my mouth as we look at our program as child development. However we do understand the perspective of the parent and they are at work. Their children are not at school and need “coverage”. This is another buzz word I dislike. So, we try to educate. We have lengthy phone conversations with camp parents, we give extensive tours of our property to families, we hold open houses and have trained staff present. All this time effort and energy to show people that our focus is to partner with them to help raise and develop their child. We want it to be a partnership. We want to work with them to help them grow grow their child, not just care for them.
In the state of Virginia, child care licensing REQUIRES day camps to become licensed. This is very reasonable for a camp like ours. All the procedures are put into place for child care centers. and we are a child development program personified! So, when the licensing staff from the county come to us, they are so appreciative of how organized and ready we are for them. Truth is the American Camp Associations standards are much higher and more difficult and every camp Libby and I have ever been to that was ACA accredited never received lower than 100%. Making sure the ducks are in a row and procedures are followed are key to a great child development program. This is one of the things American Camp Association specializes in. We have been members of the ACA for over 20 years and believe in it’s core values.
Training staff is a bit different as our staff in day camp recognize that the children go home each day and we train them accordingly. We spend a full week with staff(similar in most overnight camps) talking about the expectations of what campers will be like and the staffs interaction with them. Since the children go home daily, we are unaware of what the children are eating, how much sleep they are getting, what influences they have, etc. We rely on proactive communication from parents to partner with us about their children.
That is really the key! PARTNERING with parents to help raise their children. This is similar in overnight and day camp, however in day camp it is more prominent on a day to day basis. To get maximum growth from the children it is critical that families share information with the camp, and that the camp shares that information with the child’s Counselor. Once we know what is going on with a child we have a much better chance of success regarding their growth and development. Of course, we always learn about the parents and the families when they are sharing, or not sharing info. as well.
Whether you are sending your child to day camp, or overnight camp, please visit the camp, meet the Directors, find out where the staff come from and how they are trained. Find out about health care, age of staff, backgrounds of staff and so many other things that will help you find the best PARTNER for working with you to help grow and develop your child.
By: “H” Rothenberg Triple C Camp Co-Owner and Director
When we were kids, everyone seemed to love playing “dodge ball”! Ben Stiller and Vince Vaughn even made a movie glorifying it in 2004. What’s there not to like? It’s competitive, intense, fair rules, you get to throw things and there is a winner! This is Darwinism at its best… Survival of the fittest.
As the world of child development became my profession it occurred to me that taking an object and throwing it as hard as I could at another individual was not necessarily the most beneficial activity for boys and girls at our camp.
In 2010, my wife and co-director and I went to a camp conference in New Jersey and a vendor had an enclosure for a game called Ga Ga! I had loads of memories flooding back in my mind about my days at a youth group retreat where we played this game in the ‘80s! I remembered GA GA was AWESOME and safe. So, after we played a few rounds, we decided to purchase a Ga Ga court for TRIPLE C CAMP.
Over the last four years, Ga Ga has been a favorite amongst our campers, and our staff. It is played in an enclosed court and every one can play. At Triple C, we play with kids our own age with a playground type ball. The object is to keep the ball on the ground and hit it with an open hand. Every player is on their own…no teams here! If it makes contact with ANY player at ANY time below the knee, you are OUT. The campers love it! We hear regularly that this is their favorite game. It is dodge ball on the ground! It is in an enclosed space where the campers are constantly moving. The campers learn confidence, sharing, fears, and the excitement of winning and losing. We believe in competition at TRIPLE C CAMP because it exists in life. The opportunity to get out is healthy. Whether you are a top athlete or an emerging one, Ga Ga is for everyone as the campers are all on a level playing field. The best part is that the children are constantly moving. We are always looking for activities that add to the children’s fitness and Ga Ga fits the bill!
The next time you are at camp, make your way to the Ga Ga court located next to the NEST and have your camper teach you how to play. You will have fun, laugh and see the all the positives of this favorite game of our campers. Remember to keep moving and watch out for the ball when it hits off the wall…or to hit it off the wall and catch your fellow players off guard. You will not be disappointed, Ga Ga is loved by all!
Official Rules of Ga Ga (Israeli Dodgeball)
Ga means “hit” in Hebrew
One person who is not a player is designated as the referee. The referee is the sole authority during play.
1. The referee begins play only after all players are standing in the gaga court and have indicated that they are ready to start the game.
2. One player tosses the ball up in the air, while all other players begin with one foot touching the perimeter wall. Players yell “ga” on the first, second, and third bounce of the ball. On the third bounce the ball is in play, and all may move.
3. Players hit the ball with their hands only, and may not carry or throw the ball: it must be hit with an open hand.
4. If the ball contacts a player or a player’s clothing below the knee, that player is out.
5. If the ball goes out of the gaga court, the last player to touch the ball is out.
6. If a player catches the ball before it bounces, the player who had the last contact with the ball is out.
7. Once the player hits the ball, he or she must wait until the ball touches someone/something else before hitting it again (no double touches).
8. If there are only two players remaining, a player may hit the ball up to 3 times in a row. The ball is “rejuvenated” by contact with the wall, and the hit count resets.
9. Teaming, or intentional passing of the ball to other players is not allowed.
10. Players who are out must leave through the doors, not over the walls.
By: “H” Rothenberg Triple C Camp Co-Owner and Director
Swimming is the most popular activity at TRIPLE C CAMP! Every camper has the opportunity to swim EVERY DAY!
We are very fortunate to have two fantastic swimming pools at camp that got a complete over haul of flooring, tiles, concrete, filters, etc. before the summer of 2008.
The K-3rd graders have swim lessons and free swim daily and all the older campers have rec activities before their free swim every day!
Our pools are supervised by American Red Cross Water Safety Instructors and Life Guards. We are so fortunate that Ms. Libby is a Life Guard Instructor Trainer and Ms. Shannon is a Life Guard Instructor for the American Red Cross. We normally have 15 staff members who are Red Cross certified. It certainly makes the swimming pools a safe place to experience.
We value the opportunity to have swim lessons every day for our little ones as many of our campers over the years have learned how to swim in the TRIPLE C CAMP POOLS! When the campers arrive to the pools each day along with their group Counselors the campers have 15-20 minutes of swim lessons. Their counselors in addition to the swim teachers are in the water with our campers. It is critical for our program that the group counselors help with the swim program as this is who the campers are most comfortable, however they quickly build fantastic relationships with the pool staff. I remember one third grade camper even asking one of the pool staff to marry him!
After lessons are done, pool time is plain old fun! Noodles, rings, the slide and best of all, the diving board. Many, Many belly flops (by choice) have taken place at the Triple C diving board and the many cheers have gone along with them. Free time and the pool is joyous.
Parents, if you ever want to enjoy the camp pools…come on out and watch your campers, or come for dip with them…you won’t regret it!
By: “H” Rothenberg Triple C Camp Co-Owner and Director
Now that you have chosen the right summer camp for your child, it is time to prepare for a wonderful summer full of fun, new friends and exciting experiences. Whether this is your child’s first time attending a summer camp or she/he is a seasoned veteran, preparation is important for a positive camp experience. To help your child have a successful time at camp this summer…
1. Make plans for a visit to the camp with your child, especially if she’s/he’s anxious about going to camp. If visiting isn’t an option, then spend time browsing through the brochures and/or visit the camp’s Web site to get a feeling for the camp, cabins and facilities.
2. Consider arranging for a first-time camper to attend with a close friend or relative. For overnight camps it is best if the buddy is close in age, so they can room together in the same cabin.
3. Begin packing several weeks in advance to avoid last minute shopping trips or scrambles to find that ‘must-have’ favorite shirt. Most sleep-away camps will send a packing checklist to get you started. When packing for summer camp, be sure to:
- Familiarize yourself with any camp regulations regarding food and money
- Put your child’s FIRST & LAST name in all clothing with a laundry marker and make sure she/he helps you pack, so she/he knows what they are bringing
- Include plastic bags or a laundry bag for wet or dirty clothing
- Encourage your child to pack a favorite picture or stuffed animal as a reminder of home
- Tuck in some stamped envelopes or pre-addressed postcards
4. Don’t buy a brand-new wardrobe. While one or two new items are fine, camp life can be a bit rough on clothing. Children, especially first-timers, will also find “old favorites” reassuring when away from home.
5. Spend time talking to your child about what camp will be like and listen to any fears and concerns. Remind your child that apprehension and homesickness are perfectly normal feelings.
6. Fear of the unknown is usually the biggest worry for children attending camp, so time spent at home “practicing” a typical day at camp may provide some reassurance and self-confidence. Be sure to practice anything which your child may need to know but not be used to, from doing laundry to walking after dark with a flashlight.
7. Send a letter to your child at camp before camp begins so that she/he will have a letter waiting for her/him on that first, very important day. Make sure you mention what a fantastic time they will have at camp and how proud you are of them.
8. Look into your camp’s phone call regulations and discuss them with your child. If the camp has a no phone calls policy, then honor it and make sure your child also understands this policy. If you do plan to make calls, then reach an agreement ahead of time with your child on when and how often.
9. Cell phones: Most camps are a no cell phone area for campers. This is a great growing opportunity away from the family. Support the camps policy and leave cell phones at home. As for other electronics, many camps will allow campers to utilize electronics while on their bed during rest time, or for a few minutes before going to sleep. However, there is a risk in bringing valuable items away from home. My suggestion would be to bring an older model that if it gets broken or misplaced there will not be as many tears.
10. Care packages can be the highlight of your child’s day when at camp, but think smart when putting one together. Check with the camp regarding guidelines on food as many do not allow it. If you do send food, be sure to include enough for everyone in the cabin! Other items which are easily shared with cabin mates include games, cards, Mad-Lib books, etc. Other good care package goodies include a disposable camera, journal, address book, water bottle, or a t-shirt or pillowcase for autographs.
11. Be realistic. Like the rest of life, camp will probably have its high and low points. Make sure your child does not feel pressured to succeed at camp, and remind her/him that the main purpose of camp is to relax and have fun, learn new skills and to make friends.
If anyone would like to have personal contact for camp advice, I can be reached anytime
434.2932.2529 or [email protected]
Yours in camping,
By: “H” Rothenberg Triple C Camp Co-Owner and Director
Day Camps in the United States take on many different looks based on who operates the camp program.
There are health clubs, park districts, YMCA, etc. who operate day camps. There are schools/Universities that operate day camps. There are child care centers that operate day camps, and there are TRADITIONAL DAY CAMPS that have people focusing on the camp all year long. The Traditional Day Camp is the best experience for children as the Directors are focused on camp all year long and truly building a relationship with the families to grow and develop the child. Operating a program to grow and develop children takes very serious work and focus. Many people look at a day camp as a child care opportunity to have the child cared for while the parents are at work. There is an opportunity for so much more. Traditional Day Camps are Child Development Organizations. Camps typically operate during the summer Monday – Friday from 9:00am – 3:00pm. Many camps offer an early drop off or a late pick up to accommodate individual family’s schedules.
As a Child Development Organization there MUST be a commitment to raise the whole child. The idea is to learn how to become a better person, a better friend, and a better citizen. When a child learns these skills they can become a better member of the society. Without these skills it is much harder to be a valued part of the community. Schools in the United States are currently focused on the standards of learning testing and do not put emphasis on the “life skills”. Most parents do not know how to or do not have time to focus on child development with their children. This leaves a great opportunity and responsibility for the Traditional Day Camp.
The traditional Day Camp Director focuses on hiring the proper staff. Staff is the key to the success of any program working with children. In addition to hiring the proper staff an excellent day camp must have very good ratios of campers to staff. To grow and develop the children into better people through activities such as sports, arts & crafts, drama, nature, horseback riding, swimming, animal activities, it is helpful for the camp to have about a 5:1 ratio of campers to staff. Each group should have about 15 campers with about 2-3 staff members. Also, an activity specialist at each area of the camp to focus on specific activities. This means that there are 3-4 staff members for 15 children. Excellent ratios and support for the children. If there are activity specialists, then the camp counselor can focus on children while the specialist focuses on the activity. The activities above are just examples. They can be any activities, however it is CRITICAL to have the right people who really care for the growth and development of the children be the group counselors/child development specialists.
Once the staff are hired and facility is prepared, the next step is to have a minimum of one week of training for the staff to come together. The staff must understand the safety expectations and all of the camp management procedures from risk management, to transportation to discipline.
Camp is for the campers. The most important thing at camp is SAFETY, however directly behind it is FUN! Make sure the campers are having fun and have enjoyable activities. This is where the most growth is seen with the activity, and the behavior. At most Traditional Day camps in the United States, the children have swimming every day (Pool or lake). For younger children (5-9 years old) this would include a daily swim lesson and also each day some free play in the swimming pool. As the children get older (10+) it is ok to have a recreational game before the free swim. Proper Life Guarding staff and swim instructors is critical to the safety of the swimming experience.
As for the beginning of the day, once the campers arrive it is nice to have an all camp welcome and morning announcements. This could also include a flag raising ceremony with bugle calls, honor and respect. After the flag, each group goes in their own direction based on a well thought out pre planned schedule. Some groups will go to the sports specialist while another will go to the swimming and some go to ride horses, etc. This activity schedule continues in 35 minute intervals until lunch time around 11:30am. After lunch, many camps offer a relax time where the child can read a book, play a quiet game with a friend, or the staff will read a story. It is important that the staff is present, and also important that the children are not required to sleep, just relax. In the afternoon, more activities will take place. The 35 minute activity time is enough to keep the activity exciting, fun and not lose focus before moving on to the next event.
As the day comes to a close, the camp will gather again for a flag lowering ceremony. Before the flag is lowered, there is an opportunity for the groups to present a song, dance, cheer or skit that they have worked on to share with the rest of the camp. This is very important (as the morning opening) so that there is a sense of community for the children and the staff members.
After the closing ceremony children will be loading buses, be picked up by parents, and be sad that the day is coming to an end. They will also be very tired. It is critical that the staff members keep focused on the children’s well-being and coach them through the end of the day experience to maximize the good feelings and growth that took place during the day. Notes or phone calls home to parents about successes are very appropriate. If there were health or behavior concerns during the day, the camp director should directly call the family to make them aware.
Most Traditional Camps in the U.S. have a minimum of one week sessions for about eight weeks and there are even some that operate one eight week session. The more continuity the children have the more growth that is seen.
By: “H” Rothenberg Triple C Camp Co-Owner and Director
“I have a new idea for a program!” This is a statement my wife hears from me on a regular basis. We have owned our own private camp in central Virginia since 1999. Having gone through the process of searching for a camp (we toured over 100 camps) finding “the one” and then agreeing to a purchase price with the sellers, getting bank financing, moving our family, and closing on property/business, we thought we were home free.
As the years went on we always looking to find more ways to generate revenue. In 2001 we built a ropes course to host year round groups and utilize for team building and high climbing during the summer. This was fantastic! We were bringing in much more money than we were spending for the ropes program as my wife and I were facilitating groups with very few part time staff and we were making use of the facility in the spring and the fall. We also did in school team building programs at 20 local Elementary, Middle and High Schools in our area. A decade later we were continuing to look for other revenue streams. We LOVE the Green Movement. We believe in “No child left inside!” We want to make an impact and some $$ along the way.
Teachers love the idea of field trips for Environmental Science and it helps the teachers with the standardized testing. However, the money for Science program dollars is a bit harder to come by. The process starts with approaching a teacher to participate in one of our field investigations. These are offered three to five times a year as a teach the teacher opportunity. If the teacher is interested we outline the costs, identify a date and work with the teachers to find sources of funding to help offset the costs. Teachers as well as GAP staff seek funding opportunities reducing student tuition rates. This opportunity and interest from the teachers and community moved us in the direction of forming a not for profit.
In 2008, the Green Movement was in full swing we wanted to make our camp more marketable and cutting edge to our community and the region. The Green Adventure Project (GAP) was born. We made dramatic changes to our property and program regarding going green.
1. We removed all Styrofoam from the camp! We provide lunch for our campers and do not have a commercial dish washer. This was a lot easier than we thought it would be…the parents LOVE IT and the campers are ok with it. They do their own. It teaches responsibility and a great life skill that they got from camp.
a. Replaced with plastic cups and plates. This was very easy and reasonably priced. Plate dividers and sturdy plates from Wal Mart four for $1.00 and they came in great diverse colors. Kids love them!
b. Campers now wash, rinse and sanitize their own plates, cups and cutlery at washing stations behind our dining hall. Easy set up, however after the meal, the kitchen staff have to review every item and very often will wipe the plates clean. We have dry bags and hang them for a few hours, however we usually wind up hand drying…no biggie!
2. Removed water coolers with cone cups.
a. We request that all campers bring a water bottle to camp and carry it with them around camp.
b. We installed more drinking fountains for accessibility to water. This is pretty fantastic. We even have water bottle filling stations outside our well house that say, “Dasani, Aqua fina, and Deer Park” … people ask us all the time if that is “really” those waters outside our well and we leave it to them to decide! 🙂
3. Added rain barrels all around our camp for education and non potable water use.
a. Especially when we have been dry, we use the rain barrel water for plants, animals, washing animals like horses, and other activities where the water can be used safely.
b. Amazing teaching opportunity to what children can do at home or at school and how much water can be harvested and reused from rain.
4. Added composting and a waste reduction program at our meals (eat what you take, and we weigh waste, and give a prize at the end of the week to the least wasteful cabin group). We actually have groups that have zero waste. It’s important that the staff are bought into this for the right reasons. It’s nice to win a contest, however the counselors should not be the campers “garbage disposal” for food the campers don’t eat. Not the right message.
5. We added many recycling bins around camp for all aspects of recycling and some of our oldest campers take the recycling to the local collection site in town once week. The community loves this as when the campers are there…they help people unload their cars of all their recycling.
6. Built garden boxes and grow edibles for our campers while also teaching about growth and sustainability. The campers work in the gardens and get to see the reward on the dining hall buffet.
7. Replaced a rustic 1950’s snow weight damaged building with a state of the art EarthCraft Certified green Educational Center. There are so many amazing aspects of this building. Teaching opportunities EVERYWHERE! A bowling ball Newtons Cradle, loads of reptiles from out of the area that the children can handle(turtle, tortoise, leopard geckos, bearded dragons, etc., trebuchets, a 28X40 animal teaching mural of indigenous animals, and so much more! If you want to invest in a science center, come see ours!
Next, we started speaking to schools in the area to find out if they were interested in partnering for outdoor nature and science programs that would help them teach to the Standardized testing (teachers love that). We found several teachers and a few advocates from the Superintendent’s Office that were very excited about this possibility.
Curriculum is aligned to state standards. We created a program menu for teachers based on topics taught to specific ages. We invested in an Executive Director and Program Director who are experienced in developing curriculum. GAP works with six counties and thirty plus schools at this time.
The biggest obstacle was cost. So, at the same time we approached a local attorney that focused on not for profits. This was a bit intimidating since most Camp Directors don’t have an attorneys back ground and we don’t like attorneys fees. So, we tried to negotiate a set fee for setting up our not for profit. This worked out pretty well.
We found an attorney that told us it would be no problem to start a not-for profit, however everything would have to be done at “arm’s length”. We needed to keep things from our private business/summer camp (s-corp) completely separate from anything we were doing with the not for profit. So, we set up a separate ledger in Quick Books for my wife who is our CFO and kept all income and expenses for the Green Adventure Project completely separate. We were committed to doing everything the right way, so we followed the attorneys advice. Things we needed to do:
1. All items of incorporation through the government: the attorney was very helpful with this. The right attorney is the key to make this happen. One that is understanding about starting a new not for profit
2. File for nonprofit status: this was also done by the attorney which presented documents for us to sign
3. Make an adjustments requested by IRS such as:
a. Separate the website for Green Adventure Project
b. Establish a phone line for Green Adventure Project
4. Establish a board of directors and manuals, etc
a. We interviewed camp parents and community folks that have an interest in the Green Movement
b. It is very helpful to have a banker and a local Science Teacher on our Board of Directors
5. Hire an independent real estate appraisal company do a fair market analysis of what rent would be for a program like this in our area. This was a big deal and very expensive, however we needed this to justify our s-corp charging rent to the Green Adventure Project. We are three years in and we have not received rent yet, however the system is in place and the bottom line of the GAP improves.
6. Organize, interview and hire the proper staff to organize the programs and operate fund raising. This is incredibly difficult to find qualified staff that can teach the Green Programs and can write grants and handle all the fund raising. It is a constant challenge for our staff to decide to prioritize program service and revenue to fund raising/grant monies. We made use of the ACA job board and bi-weekly professional jobs available. We got about 30 applications which took time to sift through and then interviewed about 10. All very time consuming, but worth it when you find someone who can run programs and handle administrative work. It’s critical to have staff that will put in extra hours so that after that three day canoe trip and a grant is due the next day, they will still put in the time.
7. Cultivate and develop relationships with granting organizations and public donors. This is also very difficult. When an organization is young, it does not have enough weight under its belt to be credible to some donor organizations, however to serve more participants, we need the funds. It is a bit of a catch 22, however if you are committed to the program service, we believe (and hope) that the funding will come. We also attend meetings and trainings offered by organizations that are connected to funding bodies. Great opportunity to network and build relationships.
During 2010 Green Adventure Project (GAP) served 500 participants and grew to 1500 in 2011 and will serve 5000+ in 2012. The program numbers are very exciting. The program however barely breaks even financially and will rely on grants and fundraising to stay in the black and pay the staff and the property rent appropriately. It is very difficult for a new 501c3 to get grant money, however we are diligently working toward growing our program base to be more attractive to donors.
Our for profit entity benefits from the public relations in the community, bringing more people to the camp property and when it can, GAP will pay rent. GAP benefits from renting space at the camp as the camp already had vehicles for travel programs, supplies, buildings, infrastructure, etc. A not for profit program takes a while to get established. We are serving many more participants then we were previously and the quality of program is FANTASTIC! Areas of challenge include: finding the right part time staff, fund raising and receiving grants.
Any for profit entity that wants to take on operating a not for profit needs to think long and hard about all the up front expenses, staffing and infrastructure of a new organization. This includes strategic planning, organizing with banks, accountants, attorneys and the staff for the private entity.
If the program is quality and the participants are served well there is no better feeling in the world then helping those grow through an experience that they would never have had the opportunity to participate with otherwise.
If you are interested in more information about the Green Adventure Project, or starting a Not for profit, please contact “H” Rothenberg Co-Owner and Director of Triple C Camp in Charlottesville, VA