We recently had the privilege of taking Garrett O’Dell, our facilities director, with us to the American Camp Association 2013 national conference. It’s important to us that our professional development happens across the staff, whatever their position, in whatever ways we can make this happen. And Garrett is just as excited about that as we are!
Getting to know Garrett
The following is an interview with Garrett. I hope you’ll enjoy getting to know him better and gain a little insight into his important position as one of the directors at Camp Alleghany.
So what did he think about going to the ACA Conference?
I was thoroughly glad when I was invited to go to Dallas. I had asked about some form of show or conference to get a little insight to camp and materials used to make camp operate. I feel as though I need to be on the same page as all the directors involved in camp life even though my job is more indirectly related to camp life.
I just make sure it all happens and works properly. In knowing all the same things the other directors know about camp and the things that help with communication and functionality brings my job into a new realm of creativity and appreciation of camp life.
Garret expressed a real interest in wanting to continue to deepen his role at camp, seeing his position as an ongoing opportunity to take camp to the next level:
Many people, I feel sure, think I’m just a maintenance man with a glorified title. I hope that never proves to be true. I want to continue to learn from and improve upon the responsibilities which I have been entrusted with so that I can know that at the end of the day I have done my best.
Ideas, insight, inspiration
But having never been to a camp conference, it was new territory for him. Which sessions should he attend? Which persons would be best to network with? What should he explore?
Well, he had plenty of ideas, so much of which was directed at the best interests of the camp, from facilities, to expenses, to how camp works as a whole. He really brought an impressive and holistic perspective to his time at the conference.
In my first visit to an ACA conference, I was uncertain what I would be able to gain. I had hoped to gain knowledge to help with communication skills within my areas of concern at camp. I had also hoped that I would be able to learn more about kitchen infrastructure and management skills that would be of assistance in my venture of overseeing the kitchen. The restructure of this part of camp is one of the most important and valuable assets of camp and I find it a privilege to be allowed to oversee this division of camp.
I had also hoped to gain insight to vendors and products available to camp and find ways to utilize these products for the conservation of our financial resources so these resources can be used to bring into reality those things that seem to only be able to exist within visions and dreams.
One of the things that most impressed him was how big and varied is the camp industry as a whole.
My biggest surprise was that there are so many people involved in nearly 2,400 camps that are in the ACA. Surprisingly, folks from all over share the same ingrained goal: Being good leaders in a world of misguided youth and all striving to provide a safe and fun atmosphere for young people from all walks of life. I never knew that this common thread of camp existed at such a great magnitude.
But perhaps more importantly, he caught that bug of inspiration that the conference so often imparts, making him excited to explore new options and find the way to make them happen:
The knowledge I gained in the general sessions, the breakout sessions, and the one–on-one interaction with other camp staff gave me an attitude of appreciation for all the staff and leadership within a camps operation. All these folks seem to be faced with the same concerns and problems.
The information created a greater drive within me to set expectations for myself that are attainable yet a step up from my current vision. I have a desire to be a good leader and be part of a team that is creating a place that young ladies can benefit from.
Never a dull moment
Garret also sees the many challenges of running a summer facility, particularly the many pieces and parts, from barge maintenance, to readying and inspecting and setting up the tents, to supplies storage over the winter, to land management — I can’t tell you how much I’ve learned about our facility simply from listening to his ideas and insight. And he takes this role so seriously, yet with a caring and open spirit:
If somebody tells you they know everything there is to know about general maintenance and building development, they are living in their own little world. This role is one that is presented with a new concern most every day. Though there are many things that repeat themselves and become common, that new problem, challenge, or innovation lies just around the corner. From changing a toilet to building a brand new building, each day within the role of facilities management adds up to a ‘lifetime of learning.’
And it’s a learning that he wants to continue to do:
This being the first of what I hope to be many camp conferences, I think one of the greatest things I would like to share about this conference is creativity. I have reflected on the days spent there and I see that each and every person involved, from CEOs to camp directors to ACA conference planners, all have this in common. I would say that of the great number of people involved in all aspects of the conference, 80% have learned or are learning to think outside the box. I hope to continue to strive to be creative in all aspects of my job and life for that matter.
I hope you can see why we find Garrett so wonderful to work with. He’s there for us in all seasons, not just during the height of camp. It’s his work that gets things up and running for each season, repairs what goes down, and hatches new plans for improvements and innovation. We appreciate him so much and have really enjoyed being able to do a feature on him for the blog.
–Elizabeth Dawson Shreckhise, Assistant Director, Camp Alleghany for Girls