All on-site camps through March 31, 2021 have been canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the devastating effects of the El Dorado fire on the mountain top.
Please visit the Camp Calendar page for information on virtual camps and events. You can keep up to date on other camp happenings, read our digital newsletter, and get in-depth information on the progression of the September 2020 El Dorado fire at What’s New?
From the Executive Director and Board
Executive Director Janet James and Camp Dog Daisy Doodle
October 6, 2020
To put it frankly, our UU camp on the mountain top has been hit hard this year and is in trouble. All on site events have been canceled through March 31, 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The aftermath of the El Dorado Fire damage and the seriousness of the pandemic could require further delays to reopening in our future.
We are so grateful for the heroic efforts of the fire crews that fought hard to keep the El Dorado Fire from burning the entire forest, and a great big thank you to San Bernardino County Strike Team 6231 Charlie. Under the leadership of Fire Captain Jett Schuster, they worked tirelessly to save the buildings and structures of our beloved camp. It was a battle!
Join us in honoring Charles Edward Morton of the Big Bear Hot Shot crew, who sacrificed his life fighting to protect the forest, wildlife, and people who live upon the mountain top and in surrounding communities. His heroic story and the stories of others will continue to inspire us. We almost lost our camp because of this fire, and had it not been for the work of our staff and volunteers performing fire clearance duties throughout the summer, we surely would have. And yet, we need to do better. We need to have more people help each season to rake pine needles and trim low hanging limbs in camp. If we are to have a camp to bequeath to our children’s children, then preserving what we have is imperative. And that takes many helping hands.
We are also grateful for the outpouring of love we have received during this difficult and scary time. Your concern and encouragement means everything to those who serve on the camp’s Board of Directors. Your warm thoughts are uplifting reminders to staff that you appreciate their efforts to take care of your mountain home. Please continue to send healing thoughts and good words of appreciation to our devoted staff as they navigate through all the added responsibilities that come with the fire aftermath. Without a forest on the hill behind camp, preparing camp for the inevitable water and mudflow is extremely important. The staff members are working daily with volunteers to fill sandbags and get them placed in strategic spots to divert water around buildings. In addition, they are preparing for winterizing the buildings and getting the snow equipment out and ready.
We must now address our newest threat to Camp’s existence—flooding into camp buildings and roads. It is a big task, and preparing for the worst case of ash and mudflow into the camp will be costly. Initial estimates are around $250,000. Our wellhead can potentially get buried under mudflow, and without the forest duff and vegetation behind our camp the cabins are at risk of being flooded. This puts the existence of your sacred space in the mountains in jeopardy once again. To this end, the COVID-19 Emergency Fund Drive shifts now to do double duty and has been renamed Camp’s 2020/2021 Emergency Fund Drive. The fund drive will continue to seek donations to cover operational expenses and will now also need to raise money to help pay for fire and water flow mitigation. Additionally, we shall apply for grant funds to help offset the costs of erosion and flood mitigation.
I want to take a moment and express how grateful we are for the contributions raised during the first seven months of the COVID-19 Emergency Fund Drive — over $250,000 of our original $600,000 goal have been raised. We were on track to raise $600,000 over 18 months, but that goal has been modified to encompass the funding needed for the flood and erosion mitigation.
We will need everyone’s help at all levels to reach our new goal of $850,000. We are moving ahead with filling and placing upwards of 6,000 sandbags in strategic areas around our compound. Other, larger erosion prevention projects will need to be approved by the County and USFS before the work begins.
What can YOU do now? Volunteer your time to come up for a day to fill sandbags, rake, clean gutters, and place wood chips on the burned hill next to Craig’s Cabin. Donate what you can. Talk to everyone you know who loves our camp. Ask them to log onto our website and DONATE NOW. Between September 1st and December 31st, 2020, all funds donated will be matched to the level of $100,000. So do not think for a moment that a modest financial gift will not make a difference! Every penny makes a huge difference in reaching our goal.
May Camp de Benneville Pines continue to be blessed by your continued support of love and outreach, and your contributions of money and time.
Chair, 2020/2021 Emergency Fund Drive
August 23, 2020
The health and safety of the extended camp family is our top priority. While keeping this goal in focus, the board and camp staff are also focused on the long-term financial viability of Camp de Benneville Pines. Our Camp family includes all those who work year-round to make camp the thriving organization it has been for many years, including campers, volunteers, staff, vendors, and everyone visiting our mountain retreat.
After much deliberation, the decision of the board and executive director is to keep Camp closed until Jan 1st, 2021. Consideration has been given to opening summer camps with limited attendance, offering adult camps with limited attendance, providing testing and screening services, and many more ideas. At this time, none of the options considered have been deemed viable, given the safety and financial constraints of the ongoing pandemic. Re-opening of camp will be reviewed at each board of directors meeting scheduled every two months. The re-opening date could be moved out in time but will not be moved forward. Re-opening Camp will require significant planning and lead-time; therefore, any resumption of camp activities will be announced at least three months in advance.
Camp maintenance and improvement activities are continuing with limited staff. Anyone wishing to support camp by attending small, properly distanced, onsite workgroups may do so by contacting Janet James, Executive Director, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Camp activities will resume when it is generally accepted that it is safe to do so. Many factors will be considered in deciding to start scheduling camps. First and foremost, will be the ability of camp to provide a safe and healthy environment for our camp family. This will include taking guidance from UUA, local congregations, and local, state, and federal governments. Also considered will be the availability of improved screening protocols, improved treatment options, and the availability of a vaccine.
The camp board continues to fundraise to cover fixed costs and reduced payroll during this time of closure. Please DONATE NOW to support your camp during this financially difficult time.
Until we can all be safely together again up at Camp, please stay well, take good care of each other, and know that Camp misses you.
Camp de Benneville Pines Board of Directors and Executive Director
June 16, 2020
COVID-19 has changed our lives in so many ways. Who knows when things will return to normal?
Returning to Camp one day may mean wearing masks and following social distancing practices. It may mean smaller camps so that people are not sleeping so closely together. It will look different, that is certain. And at least for now, many people are still reticent about venturing out from home and are committed to socially distancing to protect themselves and others from the COVID virus.
Our challenge going forward will be to hold onto a place that is so dear to so many. One day when we can return to “normalcy” we will hunger to be at our camp in community—to hug, to laugh, to share, and to care together. When the day arrives when we can come out from behind our masks, we do not want to find that de Benneville Pines does not exist for us, for our children and grandchildren. What a great loss that would be on top of so many other losses.
The camp’s fixed costs are running about $50,000 a month, and that is with reduced staffing. We expect those costs to drop once we have finished refurbishing the cabins, but it is important to maintain baseline staff, so we don’t lose our operational memory. The process of reopening to full camps may take some time. People will need to find their way back into society and to camp, and it could take a few years before we can generate enough income to break even again.
To this end, our stewardship committee will soon launch a campaign to raise $600,000 to support camp operations. This money will enable the camp to limp along for upwards of 18 months, by which time we should know what the new normal is going to be. Gulp, $600,000! This goal might seem utterly ridiculous to some, but in my view, it is critical to weathering the COVID storm. Whether you believe we should all hold up in our homes until there is a vaccine or believe we need to re-enter cautiously back into society, both scenarios impact Camp. And the bottom line for de Benneville Pines is this: without a vigorous and continual revenue stream from camp rentals, we must fundraise to survive.
It will take churches, campers, non-campers, lease groups, grants, gifts, Facebook asks, Faithify asks, and creative thinking and doing to reach $600,000…but we are called to try and try we must. A major push to find lead gifts is going on right now. If you have the capacity to be a lead contributor, please contact Pat Gordon at email@example.com or Janet James at firstname.lastname@example.org. We need to hear from you. And please watch your mailbox for our appeal letter with a return envelope. Your participation on any level will be critical to the success of the camp’s emergency campaign. You can also find a DONATE NOW button on this web page and on the menu ribbon at the top of each web page.
Together we can ensure that our beloved camp continues its legacy of building community, preserving our environment, encouraging life-long growth, and changing the world for the better for generations to come. From the mountain top to your house, I wish you well.
Executive Director, Camp de Benneville Pines
For ongoing updates and Camp de Benneville Pines news, visit What's New
June 6, 2020
I hope this day finds you well and safe. Along with your concerns, the Covid-19 pandemic has weighed heavy on my mind for months. I have remained hopeful that the situation would stabilize by summer, and Camp would be full of the smiles and joyful voices of young people reveling in the long tradition of shared times up on the mountain top. Today, however, I must announce the cancellation of our 2020 Summer UU Youth and Family Camps.
I have been in discussions with the camp board and camping ministries leadership. These heartfelt talks, along with current information from health experts and local regulators, make it clear that we cannot hold camps this summer while the Covid virus is still so active in our society.
Camp de Benneville Pines has been and continues to be a special place to generations of UUs and friends. The closure of summer youth and family camps is sure to be an immense disappointment to everyone, but especially so for our youth who have been looking forward to summer camp 2020 since saying goodbye last summer. As we explore ideas for virtual and on-line activities, we will keep you updated.
While we listen to the missing in our hearts over the loss of summer camp, we must also be thinking about how Camp de Benneville Pines will make it through this financial crisis. The answer is the same as it has been for decades – we will make it through with the determination, perseverance, and hard work of the camp community. The closure of summer Camp is a momentous financial blow that threatens our long-term existence, yet I am confident that you and others, who so profoundly love Camp, will preserve this sacred place by supporting it financially.
We have set up a COVID-19 Emergency Fund Drive to help us through this time of diminished revenue. The actions taken, and the money raised, in this next year are critical to ensuring that Camp de Benneville Pines will reopen one day. Next year marks Camp’s 60th anniversary serving the youth and families of the PSWD. With a collective-will, we can ensure the magic and memories of Camp de Benneville Pines will be here for many more generations to come.
Executive Director, Camp de Benneville Pines