Green Mountain Camp for Girls moves onward to the next 100 years

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DUMMERSTON — Green Mountain Camp for Girls will host 400 campers this summer, a record number for the 102-year-old institution. And there's a growing number of staff members — 52 this year, about half of whom are volunteers.

The whole crew has been able to enjoy new improvements that came about thanks to a big fundraising push for the camp's centennial celebration in 2017 and volunteer efforts.

"The camp enjoys a good reputation in the community, so people from the community are willing to volunteer," Billee Slade, camp director, said during a tour of the property.

Many of the projects were done with an eye toward lasting another 100 years.

A local couple donated funds to build a large staircase made out of stone. Many volunteers participated in the project including Dan Snow and Jared Flynn from The Stone Trust, and Richard Epstein.

In an effort to be a "greener" camp, the Rich Earth Institute now collects urine from a "pee-only" toilet to reuse it as a fertilizer and the swimming pool now holds saltwater.

A new bathroom is accessible to those with disabilities, allowing the camp to host more campers and functions.

New tents were set up thanks to three small grants from the Dunham-Mason Fund, Crosby-Gannett Fund and C&S Wholesale Grocers. Kelt Naylor helped secure the tents and install new staircases at the camp.

All new mattresses were donated by Sealy. Diana Lischer-Goodband, camp board member, said there's a fundraising drive underway to purchase $50 covers for the 100 mattresses.

New screens were installed in all of the cabins.

Hildreth Hall — used for drama and dance programs, and camp gatherings — was lifted so a new foundation could be poured. New spruce floors were installed inside and the beams were reinforced. Windows also were replaced.

Launching leaders

Girls as young as 4 or 5 can attend day camp. Campers can come until they are 14 then they can participate in the Launching Leaders program, where they are assigned to run activities and mentored by older counselors.

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Slade said junior counselors and counselors in training volunteer between 300 to 600 hours before being hired as paid staff at the age of 16. It is looked at as a way to not only help with the younger campers but keep the older children out of trouble during a "vulnerable" time of their lives, when they may not yet ready for a full-time summer job but are too old to attend camps.

The program builds trust on staff, said Amelia Glickman, head counselor and camp administrator. It began about three years ago and grants help to cover the cost to host a staff member rather than a paying camper. Grants this year were provided by the Windham Foundation, Thompson Trust, United Way, Agnes Lindsay Trust and Rapidan Family Foundation.

Glickman said orientation before camp includes training on detecting signs of child abuse and cardiopulmonary resuscitation. CPR training is provided by Rescue Inc.

Having learned ways to deal with difficult situations, Glickman called her experience as a counselor "so valuable." She said she is able to better respond to issues in the community.

Glickman also participates in the restorative justice program at Brattleboro Union High School. She said it is "interesting" to apply methods she learned there at the camp.

Slade said a lot of campers have a history of trauma or are in foster care. By mixing with children of various backgrounds, she added, the camp experience is made "rich for everyone."

Lischer-Goodband commended the camp for not tolerating bullying, which she described as a major problem in the United States.

"We talk about creating a culture of kindness at the camp," said Slade.

Money is raised to offer scholarships if affordability is an issue.

Lischer-Goodband said the camp was originally created for underserved children from farms. Slade said the idea was to allow girls to spend time with other girls their own age. And if they could not afford to pay in cash, she added, they would pay in chicken or potatoes.

The mission of the camp is to "empower girls to believe in themselves and their ability to make a difference in the world."

"Especially in this day and age, that focus feels more important than ever," said Slade.

More and more people are discovering the camp, she said, noting that it served as a wedding venue this summer and will soon be used for a family reunion, bar mitzah, teachers camp and retreat.

Reach staff writer Chris Mays at cmays@reformer.com, at @CMaysBR on Twitter and 802-254-2311, ext. 273.


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