Any drive out to Wild Wonderful West Virginia and down to the banks of the Greenbrier River, and over that river to the camp side of our world, and it soon becomes apparent that our rustic, natural setting offers a spiritual and emotional renewal that’s priceless!
I fortunately experienced this the other day when I drove the 100 miles or so from my off-season home back to camp on what was so glorious of an autumn day that I found myself counting my blessings about camp as I traveled. The blessings of natural beauty, meaningful community, generations of shared traditions, and crafting a world where young girls and women thrive as they become the best versions of themselves over one or more summers at camp.
I’m pinching myself that this is what I do for a living.
My mission that day wasn’t strictly to bask in the glory of of Mother Nature or the joys of having gone to — and now running — camp, though that was a nice perk.
My purpose was to check in with Facilities Director Garrett O’Dell about a new multi-purpose building project he had recently begun. This building is so exciting for camp programming, and for the seamlessness of camp life for our campers, that I’m giddy with excitement to share it with you. (Sitting on the news has been so hard — it’s like a gift you’re giving to someone and you’re even more excited than they are for them to open it!)
So here goes…
The new building, which will be in the area where the old Camp Store and Post Office were, will house a shared new Camp Store and Camp Post Office on the main floor and administrative offices — or The Office — on the top floor. And below it all is a new, covered Rainy Day Space for campers!
Mother Nature Strikes Back
Remember all that waxing I was doing at the beginning of this blog about the beauty of the outdoors, the glory of West Virginia, the bounty of Mother Nature?
Well all that is undoubtedly true and so important to camp life and so nurturing for our campers.
But with all that glorious nature you do also get mud, wet, snow on the off-season, and, over a great length of time, things like wood rot and holes for lil’ critters to make their way in and attempt to overtake the place. Anyone with a roof, basement, shed, or yard maintenance can appreciate the, well, merry war with Mother Nature that never is at a complete end.
And that’s the end story of our poor, beloved Camp Store that has held us in such good stead through so many decades!
The truth is that a new store has been greatly needed for many years, and has consistently been put off since it was important but not urgent. The old building was “fine” if not perfect. Until now.
As Store Managers Ruth and Jennifer will tell you, the old store building had been around for decades, and truly hated to see it go. They felt like I do.
It was a dear, sweet building and I have the fondest memories of my grandmother, who ran the store for ages, associated with that building. Scores of alumnae will have wonderful memories of learning to say, “May I please?” at that very building, and enjoying sweet treats after dinner in the field in front of the store.
It really did have a lot of memories and will be missed.
However, it had finally begun rotting in earnest. It was as risk of beginning to fall apart and the telltale signs of damage indicated that it was clearly beyond repair. Rain, critters, rot, mushrooms, holes, you name it and it plagued the building to the point of ruining merchandise that we had spent money on and stored there and then had to simply throw away.
The old Camp Store was one of those sweet old cabins that wasn’t really built to last, and yet was forced to brave the elements year-round with no climate control to help lengthen its years. In the end we saw that our options were limited.
On top of that, Ruth and Jennifer have been, for so many years, such stellar Store Managers that we’ve increased our store offerings and were outgrowing the space. The store has become increasingly popular, as campers and counselors have loved the ‘Ghany Gear that Ruth and Jennifer continue to design each year, and room to not only display it, but store it, was just nonexistent.
Now their troubles are at an end with the coming arrival of the new and improved Camp Store. It’s going to be awesome!
Ruth is so excited for the new store saying,
The past few years the old store building has been showing its wear and tear. We get leaks and sometimes flooding when it rains which has ruined inventory. The last two summers mice were a major problem. Our new store will be bigger, better and weather-tight.”
Jennifer can’t wait, too, sharing that,
I was so excited to hear that a new store was in the works! Garrett is such a talented builder and designer. I knew Ruth and I would be thrilled with the structure.”
And the new Camp Store building is going to be efficient because…the new Post Office will be located inside the Store, which will now be a walk-in store rather than a walk-up window like it was. One corner of the new Camp Store will house the mailboxes, and campers and counselors will come up to the window outside that corner and get their mail that way.
Speaking of outgrowing, we started talking about a new Camp Office about a year ago as our current one became more and more cramped and busy as more functions came under the office supervision.
With the addition of dedicated counselor photographers this past summer, who needed to upload their daily photographs both to our parent portal and to our year-round photography drive, we needed to add a desk and work space for them in the office. And guess who had to shove over and make room? My dad, President Emeritus of Camp Alleghany for Girls Sam Dawson, himself an avid photographer. Yep, that was the “common denominator” we used to get him to share his office with the photographers this past summer.
But it was a tight squeeze because…Sam’s office also housed ALL of the photography and videography equipment for the Photography/Videography/Photojournalism activity that campers take. This meant that a steady stream of counseling staff trooped in and out of Sam’s office on a daily basis to retrieve needed supplies. Not the greatest long-term solution and not the model we want to use for staying focused in the office.
But hey Sam, we needed your space even more! The Camp Office Conference Room was so often occupied by Head Counselors and Guest Counselors, dutifully working on important tasks, planning and preparing for the next events, doing stellar jobs in tight quarters that we often had to use Sam’s office (again) for meetings that we would otherwise use the conference room for.
Are you sensing a pattern here? Our growth is phenomenal, and we need to grow to accommodate it.
With the addition of my amazing assistant Whitney Kiper, without whom I just couldn’t do my job, that made for three desks (mine, Program Director Casey Tucker’s, and Whitney’s) in what was…my office room. Well, camp is about sharing!
Other key people on our team such as Mini Camp Director BA Clark-Thomas, Family Camp Director Stephanie Astley, and Ace Dandridge, Head of Mother-Daughter Weekend didn’t even have dedicated desk space! We frequently found Stephanie sitting on the floor with her laptop, planning Family Camp. Without complaint I might add because everyone has been such a trooper as our programs increased and our office space dwindled.
But now it’s time to remedy that, especially after another new addition to our team, dear Teresa Padgett as the Leadership Program Director. We don’t have an inch of desk space for her and honestly, I can’t tell her to just go climb a tree somewhere and set out a homing signal for WiFi! Though now that I think about it she’s also such a trooper that she just might like that. Or I know, Casey would with all his outbacking and wildernessing!
But alas that’s not practical or even desirable because working together as a team, collaborating, keeping in the loop with one another at camp, AND having our own spaces to get important work done supports the mission of camp where in everything we do we believe girls need healthy self-esteem and support for their own individual voice to confidently navigate life’s challenges. Going forward, to give 100% to that, we need to be structured and organized in a way that readily that supports that mission, allowing us to plan, think, design, and implement without undue strain or stress.
Fortunately, the new Camp Office will also be ensconced in nature, right in the bustling heart of camp, close to the campers and camp life, but with a few more inches of legroom (no more offices doubling as storage spaces) and brain room (no more desks piled on desks, metaphorically speaking) to navigate!
As to those storage issues, in addition to piling up photo supplies, we were also getting squeezed out by lost and found, donated but not yet delegated items, archival items for our valued historic record, basic office supplies, camper packages that come in and have to be held until closing day (per our package policy) and so much more.
The Office will offer gorgeous views of camp from the top porch. Sam’s office will have the best view in all of camp (except maybe Vesper Hill), and as President Emeritus, and a guy who has had a couple of years with his office doing double- and triple-duty as described above. So enjoy the view, Sam!
Our Office Manage, Louise Dawson, will also have a better office setting for her work away from the in-and-out foot traffic that our bustling office sees all day. Too often that busyness has meant that she’s left to go to a different space, like her bedroom, to hideout, and, poor Sam, she’s also had to take over his office sometimes!
In her new office location she’ll be out of the foot traffic, and she’ll have a door to close, two important thing for fielding phone calls, doing payroll, managing contracts, and other mind-work. Her office will, like all the offices, have a second desk in it for necessary dual purposes. Head of Mother-Daughter Weekend, Ace Dandridge will have access to it at the beginning of summer, and Head of Family Camp, Stephanie Astley at the end of the summer.
Our Office Assistants — Laura Gorsuch during Mini Camp and First Term, and Mary-Curtis Powell during Second Term will take on the main desk in the front of the office to help with spontaneous drop-ins who may not know where they need to go to talk to someone or get a supply or leave a message.
So the whole, larger, better organized new office will look like this:
- My office shared with my assistant Whitney.
- Casey and Teresa in an office.
- Louise’s office with a second desk rotating as needed.
- Sam’s office, with a desk for Mini Camp Director BA Clark-Thomas.
- A conference room.
- Ample storage space and walk-in closets.
- A work room for copying, office supplies, the PA system, and the Chimes…
- Front entrance space with a desk, kitchenette, more desk space for guest counselors and other helpers, and a small powder room.
While this new second floor office will be a godsend for our many needs, our focus, and our ability to work best for our campers but it nestles into the landscape beautifully because it’s still very rustic and simple in appearance. It is, in fact, campy!
Garrett first posed the idea of a two-level building over a year ago, explaining that the Camp Store and Camp Post Office could be the main level, and the Camp Office above it. I was hesitant at first, of course, thinking this would be a massive undertaking, and also wondering how much longer we could make our current buildings last. But that was before the addition of Mother-Daughter Weekend, Leaders-In-Training, and two new photographers all in one summer.
By the middle of this summer it became quite apparent to anyone who spent time in the office that it was too small! Something had to change.
So we forged ahead with the double-decker plan, even though we thought we’d wait another year or so.
In the meantime, as Garrett was doing the land study and making sure the building would be out of the flood plain, he realized he’d have to elevate it off the ground quite a bit. But necessity is the mother of invention and before we knew it we saw that this had another super-positive outcome for the campers in the form of a large, covered space that will act as rainy day space for alternate activities!
We’re always looking for unique and creative ways to adapt to the occasional rainy day and this offered a perfect new option right at the heart of camp. I took this picture of me in front of the building for scale, to show just how high up it is and how easily people will fit underneath. We’re excited to make that a fun, functional space for campers and counselors alike.
I’m sure with the creativity and inventiveness of everyone at camp, soon this space will be housing skits, games, activities, maybe even the occasional picnic or concert, or..who knows? But as an augment to rainy days, it’s already a fantastic triple-decker solution!
We’ve had stellar weather and great working conditions this Fall, so we feel on track to have this building opened up and ready for use when we arrive at camp in the spring. We can’t wait to invite you in to see all of Garrett’s amazing handiwork! I’m sure we’ll have other pictures to share as progress moves forward on this exciting and overdue project!
What will become of the current Camp Office, you ask? Well, that is something we’ll be revealing in another few weeks, so stay tuned to our trusty old blog to find out!
In ‘Ghany love,
— Elizabeth Shreckhise, Director, Camp Alleghany for Girls