SHARON (06/27/2106) – The 2016 Silver Lake Conference Center Summer Camp began on Sunday, June 26 with the arrival of the first 5 conferences of the summer. One hundred and fourteen campers, counselors, deans, and a chaplain arrived at the camp this weekend to kick off the 2016 summer season.
Week 1 campers were greeted by the 2016 Summer Staff who spent the last two weeks preparing the camp and training for the summer. Camp Staff Director Alan Munshower led morning training sessions last week for these 51 young people who will welcome campers to the waterfront, the dining hall, the ropes courses, group games and activities, and maintain and prepare the grounds and buildings. On Tuesday, the staff spent time discussing what it means to be accountable to each other and to the weekly campers and volunteers. They came up with powerful phrases to help guide them through the summer: "Respect the road you came in on;" "Be aware of your privilege;" "Make room for God;" and "Bring SLCC home with you."
One group of staff had a unique role in the week. The Joseph Clemmons Training program (JCT) involves 8 young people from Communities of Color who spend all of Pre-Camp week working with the summer staff to learn the jobs of camp. This years' 8 teens come from Bridgeport, Hartford, Windsor and West Hartford. The goal of the program is to diversify the Silver Lake staff and introduce these young people to job skills that can give them opportunities in the future. After a week at Silver Lake, these individuals will spend another week at the Conference Offices in Hartford learning other job skills. One of the last year's participants, Keandre Campbell, was offered a summer staff position for the 2016 season, and is now on the first-year staff team, known to many at SLCC as "Camp Family."
Campers attending SLCC this summer will be experience something new, starting with a new Executive Director. The Rev. Ryan Gackenheimer is beginning his first summer season as the camps' director.
Gackeheimer has initiated a few changes to the summer program.
Campers will notice the first change just after they arrive on Sunday. The first mealtime will be held family style in the dining hall where camp staff will model the role of wait person for each table, a task most campers will have once or twice during their week-long stay. Gackenheimer says he made the change from the old tradition of sandwiches on the ball field because he felt a sit down meal with counselors and campers at the table provided more hospitality for those campers who may be a little apprehensive during the first few hours. Campers will see another change at lunch times when camp staff will be seated at their tables rather than counselors, giving youth a chance to get to know some staff and allowing deans and counselors to eat together to improve their communication and planning for each day. Finally, the traditional waterfront cookout has been moved from Thursday to Friday. The move allows for the dining hall to be setup for Friday evening worships, which are often run by performance conferences who need access to the dining hall's stage during the afternoon to prepare for the service.
One change campers may not notice directly is the renovation to the Lodge. This building, which is set apart from the generally populated areas of camp, is normally used in the summer for the male seasonal staff. The renovations started last fall
and are still ongoing. Site Manager Greg Arifian hopes the project will be finished during the summer. He has worked on the project all winter, while attending to the maintenance of the campus' facilities as necessary. According to Gackenheimer, multiple volunteer groups and individuals have helped with the project. As the project continues, Arifian and the operations staff will continue to balance camp operation needs with the remaining renovation tasks. Gackenheimer said he believes the project will provide the seasonal staff with an excellent opportunity to develop some new skills that would not otherwise have been available. This was true for several high school teens who attended the Pioneer conference, a Pre-camp service conference that helps prepare the camp each year for the upcoming season. This years' Pioneer was led by Charlie Kuchenbrod, Mary Kuchenbrod, and Charles Kuchenbrod. The Pioneer campers were hard at work last week helping put vapor barriers inside and outside the Lodge and painting siding.
Gackenheimer did emphasized that the Lodge renovation will not interfere with the camp's day-to-day operations.
"Camp safety and camper experience is always our top priority," said Gackenheimer.
Space is still available for summer conferences at Silver Lake. To find out which weeks are available, visit the Silver Lake Conference Center's website
Drew Page is the News & Media Editor for the Connecticut Conference UCC.