They’ve coached and safeguarded disabled and disadvantaged campers, constructed hiking trails, led environmental education programs, restored riverbeds, and built cabins all over the country. Motivated, hardworking, and enthusiastic, these individuals, a majority of whom have a college background, commit ten months of their lives to community service. They’ve worked with the YMCA, Camp Fire USA, Easter Seal, the Boys and Girls Clubs, 4-H Camps, the Police Athletic League, and many other organizations to make camps safe, beautiful, and efficient so that campers may thrive.
These are the men and women of the AmeriCorps«National Civilian Community Corps and they’re looking to partner with more affiliates of the American Camping Association.
The AmeriCorps«NCCC is a growing AmeriCorps program that does almost 500 service projects a year in different areas: the environment, education, public safety, and human needs. Teams also serve in disaster relief and fight forest fires. Each team consists of ten to twelve members who are led by a team leader.
AmeriCorps«NCCC has five campuses located throughout the United States. Campuses can be found in Charleston, South Carolina; Washington, D.C.; Denver, Colorado; San Diego, California; and Perry Point, Maryland. Each campus is assigned a region of states where AmeriCorps«NCCC members travel to help organizations and communities with service projects.
Building Trails and Constructing Facilities
Many camps don’t have the funding for the full staff of counselors they need or to restore, renovate, and construct camp facilities for the number of campers they would like to accommodate. This is where AmeriCorps«NCCC steps in. AmeriCorps«NCCC provides the labor and wonderful attitudes for the projects they’re assigned. The camps that the AmeriCorps«NCCC has collaborated with are appreciative and value the help.
Lori Stumpfol, director of Camp Allen, a camp supported by the Lions Club and Kiwanis in Bedford, New Hampshire, commented, "The NCCC team has been an extraordinary resource to upgrade facilities and provide the extra hands and hearts to interact with and supervise our campers."
When it comes to improving camps, the NCCC is an experienced bunch. In San Diego, California, an AmeriCorps«NCCC team worked with the Camp Fire Boys and Girls at Camp Cahito and Camp Wolahi to construct hiking trails, remove unwanted vegetation, paint houses and buildings, repair fences, and clean up debris. According to project sponsor Nancy Thompson, "[The Corps members] helped to re-establish several areas which had been unavailable for use for the past several years. Now, visitors to both camps will enjoy increased recreational opportunities, safe and cleaner facilities, and an improved forest habitat."
Helping Camps with Staffing Needs
AmeriCorps«NCCC members have worked with campers with mental and physical disabilities as well as disadvantaged youth. At Camp Courageous, an independent nonprofit camp in Monticello, Iowa, members taught the campers the techniques of climbing a wall, swimming, rappelling, and hiking, along with teaching the kids about social and personal growth. Project sponsor Dina Grant said the members were "wonderful" and enabled the camp to take 50 to 100 people off their waiting list, which usually holds more than 200 names. Because of the success the team had at Camp Courageous, Grant hopes that AmeriCorps«NCCC and the camp will stay in close contact. She said, "Since we are a year-round camp, we’d love for them to come work with us in the fall as well as the summer time."
The AmeriCorps«NCCC contribution goes well beyond the renewal of facilities. At 4-H Camp Howe in Goshen, Massachusetts, members have served as one-to-one counselors with special needs campers and, in addition, have coordinated and supervised the participation in the camp program of student volunteers from local public schools.
David Freedman, executive director of Camp Howe commented, "AmeriCorps«NCCC increased our staff counseling and supervision capacity, including males who are difficult to attract; stimulated enthusiasm and high energy amongst us all; and, at the same time, over the eight-week period saved the camp more than $50,000 in labor costs associated with the painting, construction, and environmental projects!"
The campers and staff are not the only ones who benefit from AmeriCorps«NCCC’s participation. By interacting closely with campers and their families, corps members gain a deeper appreciation for their own lives as well as for those they serve.
Program Provides Low-cost Help
AmeriCorps«NCCC comes at little cost to sponsors. Camp sponsors are expected to assist with team training, and provide supplies, materials, and technical supervision. If the service project site is in the vicinity of an AmeriCorps«NCCC campus, there is no cost to the sponsor for food and lodging, although sponsors are encouraged to provide snacks and an occasional meal for members. If the project is more than an hour’s travel from the campus, the project sponsor is expected to provide assistance with the cost of food and lodging.
Could your camp benefit from the support of an AmeriCorps«NCCC team? For more information about Americorps«NCCC, visit their Web site: www.americorps.org/nccc/ . To find out more about how to apply for an AmeriCorps«NCCC team, contact the campus nearest your community.
Emi Kei Ryan worked as an intern for AmeriCorps«NCCC.
Originally published in the 2000 November/December issue of Camping Magazine.