Volunteer Spotlight: Interview with Stephanie and Justin
December 26, 2021
Written by Sandi Stratton-Gonzalez
If you want to get in touch with your spirit, and the Spirit, Kingswood is the place to go.” Stephanie Millien
Stephanie Millien and her sons Justin and Max have been camping in Kingswood (KW) for over 12 years. Max, who just turned 13, has literally been coming his entire life. Justin, now in his early 20’s, was in 3rd grade when he and his mother Stephanie were introduced to the camp by Justin’s friend Mike Cavanaugh. Starting with their first visit to Cove, they have now stayed at every equipped site except Pines.
Stephanie says that the family treats their annual Kingswood trip as a true vacation. They come up right after school ends, and Kingswood kicks off the summer season. Friendships have deepened at camp, and new friendships have been made. Now, they share the same camping week with an extended network of friends. The experience of the natural world combined with the deepening connection to others keeps the Millien’s coming back!
Stephanie and Justin have many special memories of camp. Justin recalls the years of playing with Michael Cavanaugh and CJ Howard: three boys finding sticks on the ground and putting them in the fire, turning the sticks into magic wands as they became wizards. They channeled various movies and TV shows, and the Harry Potter books as a jumping off point to creating their own universe and adventures.
Stephanie recalls all the drives up to camp from Long Island. “I have a whole car full of kids. It’s a good time to catch up.” The family would look at the houses on the way up and create stories: the zombie apocalypse or paranormal narratives inspired by the homes.
Like many KW campers the family loves to go to the Penquin for the create-your-own-flavor ice cream. Several KW folks gave Stephanie directions, but being independent (she self-describes here as ‘stubborn’) she decided to use the GPS instead. “Girl, they had me going into some backwood, deliverance type road, no signal.” Having followed the GPS directions once myself, I know that route: a 12-mile stretch along the reservoir so seldom travelled that wildlife stands in the middle of a road nearly reclaimed by the forest!
Stephanie is very grateful that camping at Kingswood has built so many rich memories for her and her boys. Max, she recalls, pretty much grew up at Kingswood. She started camping here the year before he was born. Then, there are rituals the family participates in every year: building fires (no one can build a fire faster than Justin), roasting ‘smores with Reese’s Peanut Butter cups, baking a cake in the cast iron pot, laying in the hammock and of course, hiking.
Like many long-time KW campers, Stephanie, Justin and Max have become volunteers. Stephanie recalls that Cheryl Winship reached out, inviting her to Set-Up Weekend. It sounded like fun, and an opportunity to get in a little extra Kingswood time. Justin shared that volunteering is a chance to give back to the community that has served him for so long. He loves the physical activity of being on the tent set up crew, and the good night’s rest after a work day.
One of Stephanie’s best memories of volunteering at camp is also the deep sleep of a well-earned rest. “You work hard and also play hard ,and it feels good at the end of the day.” You also get to see the camp from a different point of view: from the kitchen, the farmhouse, behind some of those doors in the barn, the barn filled with summer season tents, furniture and equipment, and the barn empty.
What keeps the Millien’s coming back? The natural beauty of KW, the community, and, as Stephanie says, “it’s just enough camping, the sweet spot between glamping and camping.” For Justin, it allows him “a release from everyday hustle and bustle and from (our) industrialized computerized society.” It is a time to draw, listen to nature, sit by a fire.
A multi-talented individual, Stephanie Millien has been a teacher, flight attendant, and has worked in real estate and advertising. Recently, she started her own business, AJW Comfort Cake Company, making alcohol-infused cakes inspired by recipes passed down from her mother. Justin created the company logo and handles social media for the brand.
Justin Millien recently started his own fashion and graphic design multi-media arts collective, Mobpenguin. The collective creates a unique product every month that includes a fashion line in conjunction with a music release. The Mobpenguin mission is to produce avant-garde art while showcasing and bringing recognition to visionary artists.