JCC Association hosted the 2016 Camp Conference for overnight camp professionals at Camp Barney Medintz in Cleveland, Georgia. The conference brought together 45 camp directors, associate directors, assistant directors, and program coordinators for three and a half days to share great programming practices and ideas, offer networking and learning opportunities, sessions with experts and more.
They learned a lot. Here’s some of the takeaway:
Laurie Mackey, is the program director at Capital Camps, in Rockville, Maryland, which serves communities in Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania. She’s been there seven summers, and this past one was her first as fulltime staff. Camp Director Adam Broms sent her to the conference, and she’s glad he did. “The collaborative nature of the sessions,” was the best thing about attending, she says. “People were so willing to share ideas and materials, and to support each other.”
“It was a great experience at a beautiful camp,” she notes. “I made connections in this field and I feel comfortable reaching out to anyone; and would be thrilled for anyone to reach out to me.”
“I’ll never be satisfied until I know B’nai Brith Camp is the best it can be,” says Ben Charlton, the Portland, Oregon camp’s associate director. The conference allows him to learn from and share with colleagues the challenges and successes of running a camp, and to come up with ways to emulate best practices and overcome those things with which they struggle.
The best part of the conference was the conversations that happen organically, and those in which people were bluntly honest. A talk by Sam Bloom, the director of Emma Kaufmann Camp in Morgantown West Virginia, was a highlight, offering the insights of someone with 28 years of camping, athletics and youth services work.
“Sharing best practices, peer-to-peer networking, and bouncing ideas off each other,” were all part of the package, he says.
Dan Baer, camp director at Camp Mountain Chai, in San Diego, California, has been in the field for eight years, the last one at Mountain Chai. The conference hit all the sweet spots, such as networking, sharing best practices and being among a like-minded group who gets your day-to-day experience.
“The sessions provide a nice framework for conversations, but in between is the best part, learning from one another,” he says.
That doesn’t mean the pros on hand weren’t worth their mettle. “Spending time with the consultants and stakeholders who brought outside expertise was great,” he says. “It shows that JCC Association can be a great resource, from digital marketing to Jewish education and much more.”
Jonah Geller has been in the field for 17 years, and has spent the last five as chief executive officer at Capital Camps & Retreat Center. He has attended the conference several times, and finds it a great sounding board, a place to trouble-shoot challenges and forage for new ideas. “Any time we gather our camp professionals, collaborate and discuss best practices in the field, a significant amount of learning and reflection takes place,” he says. “ We all have similar visions and goals for our camps, so consulting with other dedicated, talented individuals is extremely valuable.”
“As someone early on in my career, I found it truly inspirational to look around the room and see and hear all of these people who have being doing this for 10, 20, 30 years and to see how passionate they are,” says Abby Solomon, who is in her first year as assistant director at Camp Livingston in Bennington, Indiana.
“I thought, ‘Wow, I can do this for a long time.’”
The staff training, sessions and recruitment opportunities were great, but most valuable was the networking, “people I can go to in the off-season, or whenever I need to ask about these things.”
“Thank you JCC Association for investing in us. It’s wonderful, helpful and important.”
Want an idea of what it’s like to start your morning at a JCC Association camp conference? Take a look at how Tamarack Camp does it!