Kingswood United Methodist Camp (Hancock, NY)
Take-Down Service Event, Sept. 5-7, 2003

By Michael DeBorja
September 9, 2003

I was looking over the United Methodist Volunteers in Mission (UMVIM) projects in New York state listed in the Northeastern Jurisdiction UMVIM website, and the first in the list were the service events in Kingswood camp, with one that would be coming up in a couple of days, Take-Down weekend, Sept. 5-7, where the tents are dismantled as the camp prepares for winter. I had dropped by Kingswood a year ago with my wife on the way to the Finger Lakes and loved the bucolic nature of the place which had everything I was looking for - woods, water (a spring-fed lake with swimming and canoeing), hills, hiking trails, and was clean and well-tended as well as natural. I had talked briefly then at the farmhouse with Don Kirby, the site manager for the week, who was friendly and welcoming. So I phoned the camp last week to say I was coming to pitch in, and the lady who answered the phone said she would put me down as coming that Friday.

I couldn’t get off from work Friday, but I did leave home early Saturday morning for the more than 150-mile drive to Kingswood, taking I-87 North to Route 17, exiting at Hancock, on the edge of the Catskills, and arriving shortly after 10 a.m. Byron Mathis, manager of the Take-Down service event, warmly welcomed me and immediately assigned me to go with KL Hansen who was driving the tractor-trailer to the tent sites to pick up and load the movables - mattresses, propane stoves, big metal pots, plastic and metal pails, storage cubicles, dining tables, chuck boxes for storing utensils, and tarps, which Deborah Taylor, Kevin Cox, Alanna Loeffler, Jon Furlong, Amy, Joanna and Jose were taking down and rolling up. The tent sites are well-appointed, with a wooden platform for the fixed canvas tent, bunks, covered dining shelter, latrine some distance away, fireplace and water faucets.

We chugged up the country road, down to the lake, with just behind it a picnic area, open-air chapel, the cottage of the program director (Donna Joy Schmidt, a retired pastor), and the lifeguard’s trailer, and up the road to the different sites, first "Orchard" on the right, then "Cove," with the shower, restroom and laundry facility, "Oasis," across the road from it. In the fall of 2000, twelve couples from NOMADS, a UMVIM organization composed mostly of VIMs with RVs, arrived on the Kingswood parking lot which had been newly graded and hooked up with water and electrical connections for their RVs, and over a period of three weeks, starting with a daily morning devotional, constructed the shower and restroom facility and farmhouse kitchen, contributing $45,000 worth of labor. Shortly before, about a dozen volunteers came one Saturday to clear trees up the mountain 15 feet across so electric poles could be erected to the pump house. The funds for construction materials and other costs of $100,000 were raised from donations, including a grant from Park Avenue Trust.

Further up the side road which Oasis is alongside of are "Overlook" and "Maples" equipped tent sites, while further up the main camp road are "Deer Trails," "Eagle," and "Hogan," the sites usually having two wooden platforms for the tents. While clearing out the sites, we also untied the ropes securing the tents to the wooden platforms to make it easier for those taking down the tents - Kristin and Byron Mathis, John Hill, Mike and Janie Weinlein, Cheryl and Kevin Winship. Kingswood has 13 equipped tent sites (14 next year) and 12 tent-trailer sites.

When our tractor-trailer could take no more movables, we went back to the barn beside the farmhouse, unloading the pails in the yard, where Barb & Tom Perkowski washed and dried them under the sun, and then driving to the second floor of the formidable barn where we stacked the mattresses, tables and tarps. Meanwhile, Judith Swanson was taking care of the inventory and putting away the camp store, Bud Swanson was doing electrical work - new outlets and wiring, and Paul Swanson handling all big equipment.

Emily Hill, Agnes, Angela and Ryan Swanson and others prepared a bountiful lunch of sandwiches, potato chips, dessert and beverages which we ate al fresco, enjoying the fine weather, while Dave Taylor, chairperson of the Kingswood site committee, presided over a brown-bag meeting.

After lunch, KL and I continued to load and bring in the movables, and we were done before 5 pm. KL, who had grown up in Staten Island in New York City, lived only a short distance away in Binghamton. He had spent the last six months on a work assignment in Australia but took every opportunity to pitch in as he had developed a love and commitment to UM camping as a high school youth when his father served for several summers as a youth counselor in a UM camp in Connecticut (since sold off).

In the late afternoon, a number of the younger (and not so young) people went swimming and canoeing. Byron and others tended the barbecuing of chicken cutlets and sausage and the steaming of fresh corn ears, which were complemented by salad greens, stewed beans, ice cream and pie. After dinner, the fundraising committee went on to hold a meeting while a few of us marveled at the moon and Mars with the telescope which Karen Taylor had set up in the yard.

The next morning I went with Byron in the tractor-trailer to continue picking up the movables while Dave and Karen Taylor closed up the lifeguard’s trailer and dismantled his dining shelter. Decades ago, Karen’s parents had fallen in love with Kingswood and would come every summer to help out. Bryon, Kevin, Alanna, Jon, Amy, Joanna, Jose and I took down and rolled up the last tent. I left early in the afternoon in order to avoid the brunt of the returning weekend traffic, while some others stayed on although they would also have to go back to their regular jobs the next day.

160 to 200 volunteers worked in the service events at Kingswood the past year, including Set Up (prepping the camp for the summer programs), Site and Facilities construction and repair, and Trailblazing. 900 people enjoyed the facilities - UM church groups as well other denominations, not only from New York but also Maryland, Delaware and other states, and including a youth ministry, "Woodsmoke," one-week outdoor adventures for Grades 5-6, 7-8, and 9-12. The "fun and fitness trail" and "Adirondack Shelter" for hikers were constructed by the youth.

Put together from land donated as well as purchased, and owned by the New York Annual Conference, despite the difficult financial times all around Kingswood manages to stay in the black not only from fees but even more due to the work of its dedicated volunteers who staff, maintain and improve it, striving to keep the rustic nature of this 766-acre haven. In an urban and high-tech world, there is all the more need for Kingswood’s ministries and not forsake a UM and natural heritage.

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For further information on Kingswood, its fees, directions and service events and ministries, please go to its website, http://www.umcamps.org/kingswood.htm.

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