Summer camps in Eastern Iowa work around staff shortages
MONTICELLO, Iowa (KCRG) - Before the pandemic, Camp Courageous in Monticello served approximately 100 campers during a week session in the summer, according to Executive Director Charlie Becker. “We would have upwards of 100 staff. That’s probably been cut in at least half.”
“It seems like counselors and stuff like that, interns coming from colleges and universities, that has all really, really lessened,” said Becker.
With fewer staff members, Camp Courageous is not able to serve as many people. “We’re serving half the campers that we would normally serve.” Becker said the camp has had to “indirectly” turn away campers.
“We’re thinking of alternative ways of maybe packing two weeks in the one week, just all kinds of alternatives to the traditional camp.”
Camp Courageous serves people with disabilities. It was muscular dystrophy week when we spoke with Becker, and he said a number of volunteers with the Muscular Dystrophy Association were on hand to help with the session.
As for why there is a staff shortage in the first place, Becker said “It’s just that the market is different.” He added, “It’s just a trend is happening. And I don’t really have it figured it out yet.”
Paul Denoskwi is the Executive Director at Camp Wapsie in Coggon. He said there was a “lull” in applicants coming in and camp started “a little short” on staff. However, he said camp leadership hoped and planned on running a full program.
“It’s not been easy, but we’ve got the bases covered,” said Denoskwi. “We could use probably another three more people to be at a spot where we’d really feel comfortable.”
Denowski pointed to several reasons for a shortage this year. He said it was harder to get staff to return after not being able to run in 2020 because of COVID-19. “And then, shorter season last year, we lost some of the consistency of people coming back.”
He also described a culture of pressure for younger people who might consider being a camp counselor. “High school and college kids are getting pulled in a lot of different direction. And they don’t always think of camp as valuable,” said Denowski. “Parents want to see their kids succeed and think that that internship is going to be more valuable. And, you know, the finances sometimes come into play a little bit, too, and we try to help pay staff a fair wage.”
Denowski said, “You can make more money in some different areas.” However, he believes a job at camp provides leadership skills as well as a place for “learning to be yourself.”
“The skills you learn at camp are pretty powerful,” said Denowski.
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