Being a camp director is a truly unique career in one particular regard; unless you live on-site year-round, it’s likely you have two totally separate homes and separate work spaces divided in the year.
So on top of managing one space throughout the year, even when unoccupied, you’re still managing the other space — winter at home but dealing with camp; camp in the summer but still dealing with home.
Not that I’m complaining. I’ve come to Camp Alleghany since I was a small girl, and I’m used to summer along the banks of the Greenbrier River and home wherever home was each year (childhood, college, on my own).
But now that I’m old enough to see what it’s like to pack up your whole life and career (and that of your family) twice a year — and not just see it, but live it — I have a whole new appreciation for this juggling act.
Closing day and beyond
Our Program Director, Taylor Fellows, usually stays for one more night to wrap up departments, and this year Director Sam Dawson, Office Manager Louise Dawson, and I stayed until Tuesday afternoon (all our family kiddos went home with their dads on Sunday, so it was really just us!)
We “stragglers” enjoyed a couple of extremely quiet days where we could just hammer through some work before facing the reality of being back home in the “real world” hit us. For those few blissful days we weren’t thinking about juggling child care, meal planning, running errands, and all those other things that we are blessed to not have to worry about while we work our very long summer hours.
Since Facilities Director Garrett O’Dell built us our fabulous new office (this was our second summer using it), we luckily don’t have to pack up quite as much as we used to. After planning for winter time needs, we find there’s a lot we can leave safely (and for the most part DRY) stored away in the on-site camp office.
But we do have a lot of files and other things that we need in the winter office with us, so some of that post-camp downtime was spent packing up what we want to take home. (You’d be amazed what you can get done when there are not 300 or more persons on site — much as we love them, this was a very productive time for us! 🙂
The KANDLE kitchen staff was technically off duty after dinner Sunday night, but they thankfully left a lot of food for us to prepare or warm up on our own so cooking was simple and didn’t demand a lot of creativity.
We also took advantage of no one really needing us in camp, so we enjoyed a couple of dinners out those last few nights! (It’s always fun to visit Lewisburg not on a work mission, but a pleasure one! Such a great town!)
Garrett’s crew began the process of taking down the tents, starting with mattresses, then shelves and furniture. This requires post-camp clean-up, and then loading them up and taking them to their winter storage locations.
The tents themselves were left up to completely dry out — we’re talking some very hot days with no rain, and minimal moisture (which sometimes takes a while!). They were finally taken down and stored away in September.
Meanwhile, my husband Matt Shreckhise, graciously loaned us one of his tree delivery trailers for loading and hauling our office things and my personal luggage back home. This effectively makes what would be five or so trips in my vehicle into one smooth-sailing trip. Thanks Matt!
A change of venue
You’d be surprised that after a full summer of camp, when you’re pretty much ready for the comforts of home, to find that it’s a little daunting to actually face the task. There’s a lot of laundry to do, you’re aware that there’s minimal food in the house so what and how to eat looms large, and there’s so much unpacking and resorting to do that you almost don’t know where to begin. In order to cope we all post e-mail “away messages” notifying people that we may be a little delayed in getting back to them due to the transition process.
This provides a critical buffer of time and mental space to recalibrate to another location and whole set of variables that are usually time-crunch sensitive — it feels like everything starts the next day!
And, in fact, my older son Mason actually started school the day after I came home, so we were immediately thrust back into the routine — carpools, lunch-making, bedtime, school structure, and all that that entails.
It’s nice to try to take a very brief “brain break” from the work and e-mails, but it never really stops. It’s just a different form of juggling, as I’m sure most of you know.
Never a dull moment
Before August ends, I like to have the counselor applications for next summer ready online. Since that is initially an automated service (until we get down to interviews, etc.) it’s nice to know we’ve got the applicant pool up and running.
September is a month for reviewing the past summer, analyzing parent survey results, planning for our fall administrative team retreat weekend, and marketing to prospective campers!
The fiscal year ends September 30th, and then we start all over again with registration opening on October 1 for next summer (I hope you registered for next year — you have until December 1 to enjoy the Early Bird Special!)
A lot of people say “I hope you’re enjoying this slow time,” or “I’m sure you’re relaxing and resting now!” I wish! (You can actually read our off-season work blog series to see what life is like for camp directors when camp is not in session.)
And then, besides work, I can assure you that like most moms of a 5-year old and 18-month old, there’s not really much of that old-fashioned concept known as “rest and relaxation!” Ha ha! Oh, well, before long we’ll complain that they grow up too fast, so I’m happy to be busy.
The real camp “down time” is more like December, when we close up the Early Bird Special pricing, and people are really focused on the holidays. We really focus on enjoying that time, because once January comes around, we hit the ground running and don’t stop at all!!
Here’s to making it all work and loving it, too!
— Elizabeth Dawson Shreckhise, Assistant Director, Camp Alleghany for Girls