“I am grateful to Kingswood for the freedom, friendships and lessons it has given me. I am blessed to have such a place of love and joy to call my Home Away from Home “
Hayley Winship is a Junior at Oneonta College and a lifelong Kingswood volunteer! An October baby, Hayley has spent time every summer of her life here at Kingswood. She calls it her “grounding element” and says she was literally raised here by the Kingswood ‘village’.
In middle school, when she had to log volunteer hours for Girl Scouts and the National Honor Society, Hayley realized she had been volunteering her entire life! Haley’s first Kingswood memories, at 4 or 5 years old, are picking up sticks at the tent sites and clearing the ground with the other children during set up. By age 11 she was given a key, the one that opens the store and the ice cream freezer. She relished the responsibility as she showed campers around the store and sold ice cream. Hayley especially enjoyed stacking wood; driving the loaded golf cart from the woodshed to the wood stand in the parking lot!
Like most teens, Hayley didn’t want her parents always telling her what to do and in middle school began volunteering to work on crews separate from them. And she began to bring friends to camp to volunteer with her. The bond with friends who showed interest in and enjoyment of Kingswood became stronger, and it was hard to overlook it if a friend did not appreciate camp.
While continuing to volunteer every set up and take down weekend, Hayley became a staff person as the summer lifeguard in 2018. She enjoyed getting to know how vast and diverse the campers are and how deeply Kingswood impacts them, providing space for a deeper connection to each other and to nature. Kingswood lifeguards live at camp and the job includes buildings and grounds work: cleaning the bath house and lawn mowing. The experience of working and living on her own and having responsibility was difficult the first year. But Hayley notes that “the experience has pushed me throughout the rest of my life, I’m not scared to start up a new job. I can make it anywhere.”
Hayley has missed the camaraderie and conversation of set up and take down weekends during this year of Covid. However, she did experience joining a socially distanced group of young adults on a set up weekend and realized they had all grown from the children picking up sticks to becoming an independent work crew!
Hayley has enjoyed camp in all seasons, and encourages us to experience a Kingswood Winter. Staying in the farmhouse, sitting by the fire, long days in the snow and cross-country skiing provide a different kind of Kingswood encounter. She recommends the red trail during or after a snow, describing it as a winter wonderland and the frozen lake as a spark of magic!
For Hayley, Kingswood is that place that is consistent in a crazy life, providing time to hang out with family and family and deepen connections. And while she knows that in the next 5 or 10-years she will be exploring many new opportunities, she is certain she will always come back!
Kingswood 2021: A Note from Our Director
By: Cheryl Winship
How relevant will a camping experience be in the post-pandemic world? Will families continue to value unscheduled days, walking, paddling and swimming, star gazing, conversation, team problem solving and trying new things? The media has been highlighting the importance of physical activity, feeling connected, and being present. If these are what is needed, then camping will remain relevant long into the future and that is what current trends are showing.
Camping got a big boost in popularity over the course of 2020, and it’s not about to stop in 2021. According to Kampgrounds of America’s annual North American Camping Report, 10.1 million people camped for the first time in 2020, over a third of whom cited COVID-19 as a key driver. Though camping popularity was already growing before COVID-19, it experienced a major upward surge since the outbreak of the pandemic. In particular, RV camping has become exceptionally popular as people came to view RV camping as a safe way to travel and avoid crowds. The number of households that own RVs has grown from 7 million to 9.6 million since 2019.
Whether you bring an RV, use our cabin tents with equipped kitchens or bring your own tent, a camping trip to Kingswood involves no schedule – simply being, no internet (unless you go to the barn), just conversation, and never the need to rush anywhere (except perhaps out of the rain). When you first arrive, the kids might say there is nothing to do. No video games, scheduled entertainment, sports events to attend, or bright-colored bouncy houses. The natural environment surrounds them: trees, grass, trails, water, and “nothing“ to do. But, within hours, kids (and more slowly adults) adjust; our senses focus, imagination and curiosity crawl out from their suppressed place in our brain. Opportunities become apparent. As our eyes adjust, we realize there is much to see: life within the pond, the trees within the forest, and the tiniest flowers in the field. It seems so quiet, yet our ears become aware of hundreds of sounds. The imagination sees the downed log as a fort, the field a place to run free, arms spread like a bird, the fire a source of magical stories. Curiosity pulls us to try new skills: kayaking, fire-starting, swimming in a lake, fishing, walking on a log, or making a meal. Creativity follows and you find yourself making up games on the badminton court, painting at the craft area, trying a Dutch oven recipe, and collaborating in storytelling by the fire.
After a stressful year with much time spent at home, nature can be just the medicine that is needed. It offers a nice blend of independent opportunity and family team building. Arguing siblings can spread out and try different things, tired adults can rest at the beach as the kids swim, folks feeling socially isolated can converse with fellow campers in the open air. If you are not sure how relevant camping is for your family, give it a try. We are happy to welcome new as well as lifelong campers to Kingswood’s comfortable camping experience.
By: Sandi Stratton-Gonzalez
“I have managed the last week of summer for over 50 years. It seems like a lot but if you are having fun it goes quickly.” Don Kirby
Don Kirby first came to Kingswood about 60 years ago. Already a long-term volunteer at Sessions Wood, he was invited by the New York Conference Camping Executive to Kingswood. Both were rustic camps. At the time Kingswood was a youth camp with volunteer counselors and four sites, the two Orchards and the two Coves.
Don came to Kingswood for a season and stayed for sixty years! Kingswood provided him the opportunity to work in the outdoors and build community with others. In fact, Don sees the Kingswood tents as symbolic of community, and the teepees as symbolic of the work that we do. He enjoys sleeping outside under canvas, and still does so routinely, unless he is managing and then he stays in the farmhouse.
Soon after Don came to Kingswood the conference run program for youth was discontinued and Kingswood pivoted to become a family camp. Don worked alongside other veteran volunteers David and Karen Taylor and Judy and Bud Swanson in realizing the family camping vision.
From the mid 90-s to 2015 Don was involved with Woodsmoke, the next iteration of Kingswood youth camp. Don volunteered first as photographer, then as “Mr. Foods” responsible for collecting youth-prepared menus, organizing items for purchase and delivering the requested food back to the campsites and then as a staff cook responsible for the meals of non-counseling staff.
An accountant by trade, Don has enjoyed doing the physical work at Kingswood, including years working on the water line, which has always a big challenge. He describes himself as “not a skilled workman but a jack of all trades,” enjoying the learning experience and the constant influx of new people over the years. When I asked Don what keeps him coming back year after year, he said “a feeling that what we do is worthwhile not only in preparing the camp but also in the community that we have up there.”
Don has noticed many positive changes. “In the beginning we didn’t have money to put into stuff,” he said, but now we are getting money coming in supporting stone ministry, folks contributing equipment and skills, restoring the Farm House and keeping the camp in good shape. There is such a wealth of talent among Kingswood volunteers, and management (especially David Taylor and Cheryl Winship) seems to know just how to use the talent for the benefit of the camp community.
Among the challenges Don observes is the loss of the clergy involvement and lack of support for Chapel services. A lifelong Methodist who currently worships at The Church of St. Paul & St. Andrew in Manhattan, Don would love to see a more intentional worship experience restored at Kingswood, including during volunteer events. The other challenge he feels that Kingswood faces is its absence of racial diversity, particularly among the large number of volunteers. Noting that Conference leadership and staff and the Camping Committee include many persons of color, Black, Latinx, and Asians as well as Whites, Don believes that we should work toward a more inclusive volunteer and family camping presence.
On behalf of everyone at Kingswood, volunteers and campers, I raise a glass of profound thanks to you Don Kirby! You have been integral to Kingswood’s success over many decades. In turn Don extends thanks to “all the folks who are at Kingswood, who are a blessing to each other and to our camping population.”
Reservations for 2021 Opening Soon!
By Rachael Skuggevik
If you’re like my family, you’ve already started discussing what dates you want to camp for the 2021 Season. This also means your countdown to New Year’s gets a +1 until Kingswood opens its reservations for the season. Here are the 2021 Season Opening Dates so your family can plan as well:
Week-Long Reservations Open January 2nd
Shorter Stays Open March 15th
The camping season is from Friday, June 25th – Monday, September 6th
There were a lot of changes in 2020, and we’re changing a few things to our reservations process, too… In hopes of reaching more campers we’re working on moving our reservations process to a new system. Those who book a week-long stay before our new booking engine software is complete will receive a $5 discount.
There will be a few differences once the system rolls out:
You’ll be able to create a camper profile and log in each year to rebook.
Credit Cards will be accepted (you don’t be prompted to PayPal any longer).
There will be a $3.50 booking fee, which the company lowered for us based on the length of our season.
We’ll have an interactive online map for Equipped Sites, RV, and Tent and Trailer all in one place.
You’ll be able to add additional camper information right from your reservation screen as it gets closer to your date… no more multiple emails with various registration forms.
As always, we’ll be here to help you. You can call the farmhouse directly at 607.637.5407. We’re also introducing a new texting number! Off season you can text or call me (Rachael, the Kingswood Administrator) with questions at 607.301.0640. You can also email me at email@example.com. There will be delayed responses, but I will work on getting back to everyone as quick as possible!
Stone Ministry Fall 2020
In spite of the pandemic Stone Ministry remained a one-of-a-kind program for Kingswood campers throughout the summer of 2020. We just had to modify the way we did certain things to make sure all participants were protected.
We no longer had tractor rides, but campers found their way to Stone Ministry on their own. Of course, we wore masks and tried to stay distanced. We used watering cans to wash stones individually rather than dunking scrub brushes into common buckets. Finally, the mason’s gloves we always wore to do the cementing were worn throughout the process.
Thanks to diligence on the part of camp staff and campers, Kingswood had a very full and vibrant summer without anyone getting the disease.
The core Stone Ministry enthusiasts were disappointed to have to cancel their April weekend working on the slate roof but did have a September weekend doing just that. That slate roof is just magnificent!.
Stone Ministry just completed its 16th year of giving campers the spiritual experience of befriending rejected stones, inscribing them with personal messages and cementing them into our “timeless evolving structure.“ This “wonderfully impractical“ program is well along at creating a temple of diversity where every stone is a keystone.
The core Stone Ministry enthusiasts are looking forward to doing some more slate roofing one weekend next spring and then starting to erect the next phase of the heavy timber roof structure during a weekend in the fall.
Happy Anniversary to Our RV Sites
2020 is the 10th anniversary of Kingswood’s RV camping area.
In 2010 Jack and Dotty Seirup and Andrew Seirup started occupying RV sites numbers 6 and 7. These were the only two sites built at the time. The Site Committee had decided to build just two sites at first as a pilot program.
The RV camping area however was designed for 10 sites total which is what we got approval for from the New York State Department of Health. That required installation of a dumping station that would be satisfactory for the 10 sites if ever built. Also, the entrance road was built to accommodate site numbers 1 through 7.
Three years later, in 2013, the Site Committee decided to build sites 2, 3. and 4, then followed soon after with site number 5.
The cost of developing the first five sites was made affordable by most the labor being provided by Kingswood volunteers. Nevertheless, the investment was significant.
Besides the cost of installing the road, grading sites, creating the dumping station and putting in new waterlines, the RV campground required a nearly thousand foot long buried high-voltage electrical service with full-size transformer and overhead wires on poles.
But even with the sites less than half rented over the last 10 years, that initial investment has been more than paid off. The RV campsites are both a wonderful way to enjoy Kingswood and are also profitable for the camp itself.
Indeed, RV camping at Kingswood is a wonderful experience. These campsites are 80 feet from each other and nestled in the woods, while fronting a picturesque field with views of the mountains and sunsets. Campers get to enjoy all the benefits of our wonderful camp and also have advantages of enclosed RV camping.
Our camp is wonderfully located near the legendary Delaware Rver fishing which makes the RV sites attractive to fisherman.
2020 was the busiest year yet at the RV campground. The Kingswood Directors have decided to build RV site number 1, bringing us up to seven out of the ten eventual sites. Site number 1 should be ready to rent by the end of next summer.
Now there is even some thought about when we might build sites 8, 9 and 10.
Kingswood Chickens and Wings of Refuge
By: Sandy Andrews, Program Director
Chickens! What was the first thing campers saw when arriving at Kingswood in 2020? Chickens! What a happy sight after months of sheltering in place due to the pandemic. The story behind Kingswood’s newest addition is three-pronged with:
roots in the history of the Kingswood site,
the faith traditions from which the United Methodist Church evolved, and
my own personal heritage and upbringing.
Kingswood was once a farm and most likely had chickens.
Kingswood Family Camp, which welcomes all, is part of the United Methodist Church. The UMC believes that ‘the Bible is the primary authority for our faith and practice’ (https://www.umc.org/en/content/our-christian-roots-the-bible). The Bible was written in an agrarian society and likens God to a mother hen gathering her chicks under her wings.
With this in mind, bringing a bit of farm life back to Kingswood seemed only natural. We built and installed a sturdy predator-resistant coop near the parking lot. The addition of deterrents, including electric fencing and blinking laser lights, seemed to keep predators away. From opening day on June 26 to the last day on September 7, my 10 hens were the first to greet campers as they arrived and the last to bid them farewell as they departed. Everyone from toddlers to seniors was excited to meet the Kingswood hens. Campers got to participate in morning and evening chores, letting them out in the morning, feeding and replenishing water for them, and (maybe best of all!) gathering eggs to take back to their sites for breakfast. If a camper was there on the right day, the attached mini garden offered up summer squash or peppery nasturtiums. It was fun watching the hens jump up to peck at a dangling apple and chase after the re-purposed gum container that held their treat of chicken scratch. They learned to kick the container around and peck at the drilled holes to get morsels of cracked corn, oats, and other grain seeds. Campers enjoyed holding the hens and discovering how soft they were. Little Dominique was the most accommodating volunteer for this task.
While the campers learned some interesting facts about chickens, I was surprised to learn how many of our visitors had their own chickens, even in their suburban backyards, or had experienced chickens in other settings, such as the brothers who recounted visiting their grandfather who had chickens – in the Philippines. I was touched by the teen who cooked eggs for his girlfriend the next day from eggs they hand-picked from the nest box. I appreciated my helpers for the week, who faithfully showed up to assist with chores. Even the extra precautions needed to make Kingswood safe for all seeking a respite from the pandemic brought a bit of fun – people enjoyed using the battery-operated sprayer to wash their hands.
I hope that all of the 2020 campers felt the figurative open arms of Kingswood welcoming them as they sought refuge, respite, and relaxation from society’s turmoil. May the memories of visiting the Kingswood hens remind you of the image of a protective mother hen gathering her young under her wings, keeping them safe and secure. And if you were not at Kingswood this past summer, I invite you to come next summer, as the hens and quiet refuge of Kingswood will be there again.