Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Mission of Year-Round Programs, Part II

By: Sara Knutson

Last week I painted a rough sketch of the extent of our year-round program — we definitely stay busy! Today, I’ll go into a bit of detail as to how we pull it off.

Unlike our summer staff, which numbers well over 40 people plus week-long volunteers, the year-round program succeeds largely due to the efforts of six volunteers (called program specialists), two head cooks, and myself. With occasional (and much appreciated) assistance from Chris, Jeff, Rebecca, and Tricia, the program specialists work together to create meaningful, personalized, and fun retreats for each school and parish that visits.

They meet and pray before groups come, build community with the students, work in the kitchen, belay students on the climbing tower, plan and lead spiritual, teambuilding, and environmental activities, and clean camp afterward — all on the same retreat! Their pay? Room and board, a small monthly stipend, and health insurance. The program specialists are truly motivated by a desire to serve others and impact the lives of youth.

Even with this fairly low staff cost, the year-round program is hardly a profit center for camp. In our efforts to make these retreats affordable to Catholic schools and individuals, we long ago made the decision to seek to simply break even. Retreat fees pay for the volunteers and my own salary, but few of our overhead costs.

So why bother? Why do we invest so much time, energy, labor, and cost into year-round programs? Well, because the benefits far outweigh the costs. Tune in on Friday to learn what some of those benefits are!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Mission of Year-Round Programs, Part I

By: Sara Knutson
Program Director

“So what do you do the other nine months of the year?”

This is a common question asked of our full-time staff. Camp Gray’s summer camp is well-known, but how do four full-time people plus a crew of six volunteers and two head cooks stay busy during September through May? And just as importantly, why do we bother?

This week, I’ll answer the first question, and in successive weeks I’ll move on to the all-important “why.” Staying busy isn’t hard, especially in the fall and spring! Below are photos of just a few of the schools and parishes that came to visit us:

All told, 22 schools and parishes visited us this fall for 1, 2, or 3-day retreats, several coming with multiple classes of students. In addition, we hosted three family camps, a community picnic, and an open Confirmation retreat, and took a staff trip to the Porcupine Mountains in upper Michigan. From August 30 through November 23, a period of 86 days, we facilitated retreats on 68 days and hosted non-facilitated groups several more days. There were only 11 days all fall when we didn’t have a group visiting!

Since Thanksgiving, we’ve visited two more parishes for retreats and will be hosting the Explorer Reunion this weekend, for alumni of our summer Explorer Program (we can’t wait for you to get here, Explorers!). By the time the school year ends, we’ll have worked with nearly every parish in the Madison diocese plus a good sampling of the Milwaukee and La Crosse parishes. The fun truly never stops, and it definitely keeps us very busy!More on the year-round program next week!