by Pine Cove Posted Nov 4, 2020
Summer 2020 was undoubtedly one of our most unusual summers, not only for us but also for the families we serve. We sat down with Reed Livesay, Pine Cove’s President and CEO, to get his thoughts about how camp went this past summer in the midst of a most unusual and tumultuous season for our country.
What one word comes to mind when you think of camp this past summer?
I actually have two words: grateful and courageous. Grateful that the state allowed us to do camp, and that we have leaders in place that were also courageous enough to make that decision. And then when you look back to once we were able to be open, the courage that it took for our campers to come, the courage it took for our directors and summer staff to show up; it was a real demonstration that the Gospel is worth it. Relationships are worth it. So it was a privilege to witness the courage being shown by so many and how God used that to impact and transform lives. We just could not be more grateful for everyone involved. Through this summer, we have been given way more than we deserve.
Is there a particular moment or memory that stands out for you from this past summer?
I would say that it was the one moment that occurred over and over again as we welcomed campers to youth and family camp. And that was hearing parents say, “Thank you for being open. My child needed this more than you can ever imagine.” To be able to welcome them through our gates was an absolute privilege, and that encouragement from parents…. I will never forget.
Why do you think it was so important to many of our campers to be able to come to camp, even in the midst of a pandemic?
I think for a lot of our campers, they were beginning to experience a little bit of isolation even in their homes. We were made for relationship, and so to be able to come to camp, and even have something to look forward to, was a common theme we heard. I would often learn that campers were packing their trunks two and three weeks before their session, which was just an indicator that they were ready for camp. Not only that, but their hearts were ready to hear about the Good News! Never have we seen a summer where it was so received and so needed—many just needed to talk with someone. We were so thankful to be open and to be able to offer that to our campers.
What were some steps that Pine Cove took in order to hold camp this past summer?
We started by creating protocols with state and local governments, and communicated with them constantly during the summer to ensure that what we were doing was the right thing and best practice. We had to reduce capacities in many areas, and also made a significant investment in electrostatic sprayers—the kind used in hospital operating rooms—to routinely spray down the cabins and other shared spaces with an organic solution approved by the EPA against COVID-19. We also invested in COVID-19 tests that were kid-friendly, and lots of hand sanitizer! We even created a fun camp cheer for campers to chant while washing their hands so they washed for the required amount of time. In training our summer staff, we also had to make sure that everyone got here two weeks early to quarantine before camp started.
What were some of Pine Cove’s biggest challenges leading up to summer and after summer?
There were huge challenges even before the summer, as far as how we were going to handle registrations as news of the coronavirus first began to emerge, and trying to figure out what the state was going to do. It was so encouraging to see so many generous hearts, whether it was our campers sticking with us, moving their balances forward to next summer, or even gifting their registration fees in some cases. One of the biggest challenges during the summer was staying ahead of communication when COVID-19 did impact one of our camp sessions. There were so many things happening so quickly, whether it was symptoms, test results, or updated news. Our communication department did an unbelievable job being transparent and getting all the information we could to our constituents as quickly as possible. We learned a lot along the way. And then after summer, we continued to follow up with people making sure that everyone was doing okay and just communicating our grateful heart.
What was your most surprising experience or conversation from this past summer?
My wife Julie and I made telephone calls to campers who had been impacted by COVID-19 this summer, whether it was just their week of camp that was disrupted or them personally. Every one of those families that we called and had a conversation with were just overwhelmingly grateful that we were open and expressed that they would have done it all over again because of the impact camp had on their kids and families. I was taken aback with their graciousness toward us. They were all in—that was just really wonderful to experience.
How has COVID-19 impacted Pine Cove’s finances this year?
Due to COVID-19, we were only able to recognize 60% of our expected revenue this year, which means we are significantly short of what we were anticipating. We had to cut back our expenses; we also had to make a reduction in our workforce and cut back on employee benefits. We are hopeful that people will continue to support us financially with gifts and registrations, so we are still very dependent on our constituency to make that happen… especially before December 31. During the year, however, we did not know where we would end up financially after the summer because we didn’t want the potential financial impact of COVID-19 to guide our decisions when it came to the health and safety of our campers. So, while we would track those, the leaders who were making those decisions were not aware so they would not make decisions based on finances. And we are grateful to report that with a lot of people’s help, we hope and are praying for a wonderful summer 2021!
What would you say to someone considering coming to camp next summer?
I would say without a doubt: send them to camp next summer! They are going to need it. School is not the same, activities are not the same. We need to put the kids in an environment where they can have some fun together in community in the safest way possible! We would love to be a part of inspiring your camper to walk intimately with Jesus, and I don’t know of a better place to do that than around 100 college students at your camp who love Jesus passionately and love to have fun. It is such an encouragement and will give your child a picture of what living for Jesus can look like. It’s just exciting to be a part of your journey as a parent… we’d love to come alongside you in that.
Is there anything you would like to share that we didn’t already ask you?
One of the greatest things I learned during that season is that when we try to control things and outcomes, it makes it very difficult. This past spring and summer was about releasing control and really acknowledging who is in control: our Lord and Savior. When we acknowledge that and trust that, there is freedom. There’s a freedom to say to families, ‘Hey, this is going to be your decision, not ours, when it comes to getting your camper fees back’ or ‘Hey, this is your decision, not ours, when it comes to deciding whether or not to come work at camp or sending your child.’ When we do that and really acknowledge that we are not in control, there is a freedom and an abundance mentality that is just beautiful. And it was really encouraging to see the body of Christ come together this summer. Grateful and courageous! Grateful that families showed so much courage in sending their kids to camp for a life-changing experience, grateful that parents allowed their students, their precious children in college, to come work at Pine Cove. Grateful that we have directors and their families that stepped out into it that said it’s worth it! Grateful that we have registration staff who were on the phone continuously talking to camper families. Grateful that we have people who were cleaning constantly. I just have to say that all these things were worth it because we got to proclaim the name of Jesus and make His name famous. Many times during the summer it was a reality that we were suffering, not for the sake of suffering, but for the Gospel and yes, it was difficult. But it was worth it. And we would do it all again. Although it would be hard, and it probably wouldn’t be a first choice, but it was absolutely worth it. Because God used it to change and transform lives. And because of that, it’s worth it every time.