Scenic view of trees at camp

Staff Profile: Hannah “Patilla Piñata” Carter

by Jenny Sowers Rutland

Hannah Carter headshot

Starting her camp journey on summer staff nearly 15 years ago and working through eight different positions on full-time staff, Hannah has experienced many facets of Pine Cove’s ministry. She has a heart of gold and will make you cry from laughter. Her name game story is unlike any we’ve ever heard, and her explanation of why she isn’t in skits anymore had us laughing uncontrollably. We hope you enjoy learning about Hannah as much as we did!

What is your current position at Pine Cove?
Director of Development.

How long have you been working at Pine Cove? Can you give us an overview of the various positions you’ve held?
For the summers of 2006-2008 I was on summer staff, and then I just never went home. I have pretty much been on staff ever since. After college, I served as Guest Relations Coordinator at the Timbers, and then I was a Site Coordinator for Base Camps, now known as Pine Cove City. Next, I was the Associate Director of Base Camps, then Director of Pine Cove City, followed by the Southeast Regional Director of Pine Cove City. Then I became the Director of Alumni and then the Director of Major Donor Support, and now, the Director of Development. I feel like I’ve done it all.

blog%2Fhannah_carter_mama_ruth Hannah, far left, as the Shores Mama Ruth in 2007.

Wow! That’s a lot. What is your favorite part about working at Pine Cove?
Getting to work with people who I love and who are really fun, but all the while doing something that feels really impactful for the Kingdom. I can’t remember a day when I haven’t wanted to come to work, and I would attribute most of that to the people who I get to work with and that there is meaning to the work I get to do.

What is your camp name and how did you get it?
Patilla Piñata. I might have the worst camp name ever because literally no one understands it. I told some really good stories and got a really bad camp name is how I feel (laughs). I have been here long enough that I feel like I should have gotten a redo, but here we are 12 years later.


This is going to be good. Tell us more…
In college, I worked at a dry cleaner’s and once mispronounced a customer’s name. Let’s just say it sounded close to a word we’d call a “watermelon” at camp, and apparently “Patilla” is the Venezuelan word for watermelon.

Piñata came from when I brought a piñata onto an airplane as a carryon, which I was planning to use as one of my camp costumes. Long story short, the flight attendant didn’t know I was the one who brought the piñata and she complained to me about “not having enough overhead space because some girl brought a piñata on the plane.” And then lastly, they wanted to incorporate Spanish because my sister’s camp name involved Spanish. And now, over the years it has progressed to “Pat” for short.


In all my years of knowing you, I don’t think I’ve ever actually heard that story before! Tell us about your family.
I am married to Caleb, or “Wheelin and Dealin,” who is the Ranch Director.  We met at the Shores on summer staff and my first memory of him is when he was wearing a muscle tank and did a backflip on stage. We got married at camp and have been married seven years. We have one crazy 18-month-old, Anderson, and we are about to have another daughter in March.  

What is one story from your time in Pine Cove’s ministry that vividly sticks out in your memory?
At one of the City locations we had a family that was set to pick up another family’s kids (who were coming on scholarship) and drive them to camp every morning. Through really hard circumstances, those kids needed to be adopted and that carpool family ended up adopting them.  

This was such a picture of the Gospel, but we also started City not for the name of Pine Cove, but to give the church a tool for outreach into their community. So, we got to see that tool be used in a way we never would have foreseen, and it allowed the church to be the church. In Acts, it talks about everyone’s needs being met because the church is meeting everyone’s needs, so I got to see that play out. We obviously never could have guessed that this would happen, but God knew this would happen before we ever even started Pine Cove City.


Most epic skit character you’ve ever played.
Oh my gosh! You don’t ever want me in a skit. I have been in one skit and I think it was one skit too many. All I can remember is that I was someone’s mom and that my accent changed multiple times and I ended up being on the floor, curled in a ball, traumatized (laughs).  

Everything went black and I just tried to get off stage as soon as possible. Then they had to write me out of the skit after that and we just never talked about it again. I was not in the skit again that week and I was never asked to be in a skit again after that. And this was when I was program director! (laughs). 

Most epic skit character you’ve ever seen on stage.
The Fronas Brothers at the Timbers in 2008… but that might also have been because my husband was one of them.

What is your most embarrassing camp moment?
I think we’ve already discussed that! But another one would be when I was working as Guest Relations Coordinator at the Timbers. I worked with Chris “Broflex” Boddy, and he would always try to get me on stage. It got to the point that I would try to hide anytime he went on stage because otherwise it would always end up that the whole room would chant my name to get me on stage.  

At one conference, Boddy told everyone that I had won the “Iowa State Opera Competition” and so I had to go up on stage and make up all the words and sing opera. And again, everything went black. Afterwards a lady from Iowa came up to me and asked me where in Iowa I lived.

Sounds just like something Broflex would do!


What are some of your favorite things right now?
In this season, because I am pregnant, my favorite things have varied from Kickin’ Quesadillas from Taco Bell to Blue Bell Cookie Two Step ice cream. When my child sleeps through the night is another favorite thing (laughs). Anderson has started doing this thing where she wants to hold Caleb and my hand at the same time and then says, “Play, play!” The show “Person of Interest.” I wish I could say running, but that is just not a thing as I’m carrying another body in my body right now.  

What is your favorite Bible verse?
My favorite for as long as I can remember is Psalm 40, but specifically verses 1-3:

“I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in him.”

This is just a very practical reminder of the Gospel and brings it full circle. It reminds us that God rescues us, walks with us, and that the goal is that others are transformed as they see what the Lord is doing through us as believers.  

How has working at camp changed you?
On a practical level, I feel like I have been given the opportunity to do so many different things and interact with so many different people. I have learned a ton about myself and the way God has designed me. It comes back to how I get to spend my work days doing things that allow me to walk out the ways the Lord has gifted me and give my time and energy to something that is eternal and not just for myself.

Posted Feb 26, 2020

Jenny Sowers Rutland

Former Staff

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