Volunteer Spotlight: Alicia Swords and Tim Shenk

Written by Sandi Stratton-Gonzalez,

Alicia Swords and Tim Shenk are Volunteer Managers with deep ties to Kingswood. Alicia’s grandparents helped to build the camp, her father began his camping journey as a child at Kingswood in the 1960’s, and Alicia has been coming to camp since she was an infant. Tim first came to Kingswood when he and Alicia were dating, and they have been volunteer managers since they were newlyweds. Now their daughter Emma, who turns 5 this spring, is an avid camper. She especially enjoys riding in the little Kubota and raiding the ice cream freezer.

Alicia’s grandparents helped to build the camp as part of a large group of volunteers after the NY Methodist Conference acquired the land in the 1960’s. At 3, Alicia stayed with her parents through September and October in a trailer in Eagle Field, while they were waiting to close on their new home in Hancock. Later, her grandfather, John Swords, was assigned as pastor to the Hancock Methodist Church, so they visited Kingswood often.   Alicia’s memories of her grandparents include walking with her grandmother from Tent and Trailer to the lake, picking blackberries,  observing her Grandfather’s daily devotionals by the lake, and cross country skiing in the winter when there were huge drifts of snow. 

Over the years, the Swords family would gather at Kingswood for family reunions. Her father’s sister and her children flew in from Germany, her dad’s cousin Jim and Holly Moore came with their children, and all the cousins would play together.  Alicia remembers  playing Little House On The Prairie in Orchard Field with her cousin Rebecca. At the end of the day, Jim Moore and Alicia’s dad, Peter Swords, would tell silly stories by the campfire. Last summer the extended family gathered yet again, to celebrate the memory of Peter, interring his ashes at Stone Ministry. 

Like many young adults, Alicia’s connection with Kingswood lapsed for a while in high school and college. She reconnected as an adult, after meeting Tim in the Dominican Republic. Tim had grown up camping in the family pop up. As they were getting to know each other, Alicia invited Tim to Kingswood, and received special permission to camp at Orchard in October. They hiked in with their tent and other gear, including a few gallons of water, and it rained most of the time! But that didn’t deter Tim, and he has loved Kingswood from that first trip. 

Just before they were married Alicia and Tim volunteered for Set Up weekend in the Spring of 2011. They were tasked to put metal mesh on the chuck boxes in Eagle and Hogan to keep the porcupines away. It took them all day. At first the staple gun didn’t have staples. They drove into town to get them. Once they got going they were excited and worked fast, and soon the first box was done. When they opened it up, they saw that the box was a horror. All the ends of the staples were poking through to the inside of the box. They had to pull the staples out with pliers and start over.  

Not long after, Tim and Alicia volunteered as Summer Managers. They needed help right away with a water line leak and a toilet that wouldn’t stop running. They lured Jim Pfeister up to camp with the promise of breakfast and have realized that is how Kingswood works. Everyone has different skills and is there to provide support. Among Kingswood volunteers you will find photographers, carpenters, plumbers, graphic designers, teachers and more!

Tim and Alicia have managed every summer since 2013. They managed with Jevin, their infant foster daughter, and with their daughter Emma when she was only a couple of months old! Emma is now the 4th generation of the family with Kingswood ties. She looks forward to coming each year. For a long time Emma’s requested nightly bedtime story was a story about Kingswood, starring her cousins and dearest friends. 

Alicia and Tim love the long term commitment to a place and people that Kingswood provides. And, like many Kingswood volunteers and campers, Alicia and Tim are thinking about the future. Tim reflects that “our whole state and region are changing because of climate change and big forces in the world. There are pressures that will affect Kingswood that go way beyond these acres. Our hope is that this group of people can continue to come together across all the ways that life comes at us, and continue to connect and to preserve the spirit of Kingswood: as a sanctuary, as a place to come not to retreat from the world but to reconnect to it.” 

Alicia shares that “Kingswood could be just a vacation place, but it becomes more; a place to practice being in community.”  “My hope is that people can stay connected with each other and commit to continuing to build the world we want.”