Editor’s Note: Much of this information was sent out to the families who requested a refund on their camp tuition for 2020. Then, after receiving several questions from the camp community at large, I realized that the greater camp community may be curious about how camp is faring.
It is a bit unusual for Camp Alleghany for Girls (and for other small, privately owned businesses) to publicly share insight to their financial status and information.
Covid has changed that.
With so many businesses taking hits due to temporary program suspensions or closures around covid restrictions, many of those same businesses, whether restaurants, hospitality arenas, brick and mortar stores, offices, and even camps, are also receiving an outpouring of care and concern from devoted fans, followers, and longtime customers.
As most of you know, Camp Alleghany is a VERY strong community of current camp families, staff over the years, our Alumnae, and friends who’ve passed through. We’re connected, we look out for one another, we keep our bonds close at heart. When you express concern about how we’re faring, whether after the flood a few years ago, or today, during covid — or any time! — we can’t overstate how much that means to us. ♥
It is completely fair to say that we couldn’t have made it through the devastation of shutting down our programming for the first time in 98 consecutive summers without you, our ‘Ghany Girls and ‘Ghany friends!
Beyond those who have emailed us or called in, I know through the grapevine that many others, too, wonder how we’re doing, wondering if we’re ok, are maybe worried about us, and would love to get a candid update on what we’re facing as a camp, and within the industry. So here goes — a blog post on the “State of Camp Alleghany” if you will!
The Good News
First I have to comment on recent successes.
I really wanted to open camp for the summer under my own set of restrictions and precautions that I submitted to West Virginia Governor Jim Justice. But when he never got back to me, I didn’t feel we could open regular camp under West Virginia’s onerous restrictions on camps.
But in the end we opted for more caution and held a very successful and totally covid-free campground program. Among other things, this program did allow for some revenue, but only enough to cover its own costs. Still, and equally important, running Family Retreats allowed for our being onsite at camp, and to complete important infrastructural tasks. It was a key time for us in managing camp’s ongoing concerns and very worth it!
Moreover, time to connect with camp as a place, a legacy, and a part of our history was also very meaningful to us.
I can optimistically state that, given how strong ‘Ghany has been over the years, I believe we’ll be okay for next summer on multiple levels:
- We’re ready to plunge back into our important age-cohort based programming and again nurture girls’ lives during the summer. In other words, we’re driven and passionate about this work and that fuels our resolve.
- We’re ready to roll out our recently improved and re-purposed buildings and grounds to make camp even better!
- As long as camp is full next summer, we’ll be ok financially once we start getting regular tuition payments in.
With Early Bird Registration opening for Summer 2021 on October 1, 2020 we hope to start seeing those payments come in and the road ahead will look a little brighter.
You can see on our Dates & Rates page that registering during the Early Bird window — from October 1st through December 1st — locks in your best rate for 2021. But there’s an even bigger discount if you pay in full at the time of registration. Folks who pay in full up front will surely be helping us get through the winter financially! 🙂
Temporary Bad News
But in a recent email to parents I did have temporarily stark news. I shared that in that having closed down all our regular programs meant that we owed refunds to anyone who didn’t rollover their child’s registration and tuition to next summer. Additionally, I disclosed that we applied for and received a PPP loan to get us through a short eight weeks of payroll but that it covered nothing more. The federal PPP loan program was extremely restrictive and defined exactly what we could and couldn’t use it for and there was no surplus after the eight weeks to use it for any other thing even if using it had been allowed.
This prompted a parent to comment that my email sounded so destitute that she was wondering if we’d even be ok to hold camp next summer?
The short and happy answer is — YES! Yes, we will be able to hold camp for Summer 2021.
However, as I explained to her, camp’s income is entirely from tuition, so once we get that 2021 tuition rolling in (see above), camp will be back on track. While we may have to cut a few corners or be a bit more frugal to pay any past or future loans back (see below), we’re not expecting a compromised program next summer, at least as far as finances and facilities goes (covid restrictions may add some burdens, maybe, we’re working on that, stay tuned).
So while things seemed stark at that moment, it was just the reality on the ground. The other reality is that with nearly a 70% rollover of campers to next summer AND registration about to open up AND renewed interest in the value of outdoor sleepaway summer camp for kids’ health and happiness, we know that we’re on the upswing again.
Nuts and Bolts
As for now, as soon as we can we will be refunding all families who didn’t rollover their registration and have asked for a refund (some families donated all or part of their tuition to camp).
As an organized business, a well-oiled machine if you will, most of the money we had last spring, just before camp would have opened, had already been spent on preparing for the upcoming summer season. That said, all spending came to a halt when it started to look like cancelling camp was a real possibility. We ceased spending any extraneous money at that time to stave off further losses and began to operate close to the bone.
And no, we’re not declaring bankruptcy! (We have had this question). No, that’s not needed nor on the table.
We were glad to generate a small amount of revenue from Family Retreats but it covered the cost of Family Retreats and nothing further. We had hoped it would bring in more, but we feel pleased with the success of it because it did allow us to be at camp for Work Camp and complete those kinds of tasks that are important but not urgent — like purging, rearranging, sprucing, and classifying (such as our archives).
In the intervening time we have applied for two more loans, one of which has come through, and the other we’re still waiting on. We’ve been approved pending an appraisal.
We’ve all taken significant salary cuts or furloughs, and we’ve stopped any and all spending or plans to spend on projects, facilities, professional development, and much more (we even cut our Premium Zoom account which limits our ability to do virtual programming!).
We’re currently operating on a shoestring.
Once our second loan comes through, we’ll have the funds to refund all families who have requested a refund. We hope that this will happen in October. We can’t guarantee it will, but that is our hope. Once it comes through, we’ll start processing the refunds immediately. We will communicate again with the progress of the refunds, and especially if there will be a delay beyond October, something we very much hope does not happen.
We thank you so very much for your support, patience, and understanding as we navigate the most challenging times that Alleghany has ever seen. Your dedication and loyalty to camp, and your empathy to our situation is deeply appreciated.
We know that many people are facing financial challenges right now, not just us, and we empathize.
We hope that giving you a fuller picture of what we’re up against, as well as the optimism we feel going forward, will be another way in which our community feels that sense of pulling together, caring for one another, and holding our shared space — Camp Alleghany — in the light!
As a reminder, the Camp Alleghany Alumni Association generously set up a ‘Ghany We Will Give program this year with camp as its beneficiary.
Donations here would be a non-tax deductible contribution to camp through the CAAA but its funds would help defray some upcoming expenses and lessen the impact of last summer’s financial losses.
And contributions to the CAAA’s Lantern Scholarship (which IS tax-deductible) are always needed and welcomed, too.
Next summer could be tough on many families coming out of their own covid-driven financial strain and, where possible, scholarship funds will make that all-important time at camp more doable for those in need.
— Elizabeth Shreckhise, Director, Camp Alleghany for Girls