It’s hard to find a moment of silence these days at Carol Joy Holling Camp, near Ashland. At any given moment of the day, songs and laughter of campers join with the natural songs of birds and hum of insects.
“It just feels right. It feels like things are back to where they should be,” Nate Grimm, Whispering Winds Site Coordinator shared. “Having campers back has been a burst of energy. It feels so good to be back at camp, and back in action.”
“It’s really nice to be able to have everyone come together and pick up where we left off,” TrailHead Site Coordinator Emily Dresbach agreed. “I’ve had campers from two summers ago tell me they remember me. It’s great to be back in community together.”
Around 1,000 campers will come to Carol Joy Holling Camp over eight weeks in June and July this summer. A typical summer would be closer to 1,600 campers, but staffing shortages forced the camp to consolidate all elementary campers into one site—TrailHead—and all middle school campers into one site—Ranch Camp—when typically, there are two sites for each of those age groups. This year’s summer staff has 35 members, while in 2019 there were 64 Summer Ministry Team members.
“We tried many new and different recruiting strategies, but in the end, there just weren’t enough qualified, collage-aged leaders to serve this summer,” Jason Gerdes, Nebraska Lutheran Outdoor Ministries (NLOM) Executive Director said.
“It was difficult to make the decision to consolidate sites and even have to turn some late-registering campers away for this year,” Gerdes continued. “At the same time, we needed to be able to follow the CDC and ACA (American Camp Association) guidelines for COVID-19 mitigation and also care for our Summer Ministry Team. This way we can still serve campers of all ages—from Kindergarten to Seniors, as well as families and campers with special needs at J1:9 Camp.”
Elementary-aged campers have a new place to sleep and play this summer, at the 12,000 square-foot, $3.2 million Hazel Dillon Lodge. The new building’s lower level is also a state-of-the-art storm shelter with ten bunk rooms where campers sleep each night.
"A positive first experience at camp starts a chain reaction," Gerdes explained. "When kids return to camp year after year, their faith, confidence, and leadership skills continue to grow and have a significant impact on not only their life, but also their family, church, and community."
During the months summer camp is not in session, the Dillon Lodge is utilized for events, meetings, conferences, and retreats. The upper level meeting space seats more than 150 people. The lower level sleeping rooms accommodate up to 86 people for multi-day retreats. The building is ADA accessible.
After living through a challenging year, NLOM is thrilled to be back in action at both Carol Joy Holling and Sullivan Hills Camps. It is great to see the camp properties alive with the sights and sounds of children growing in their faith.
Nebraska Lutheran Outdoor Ministries is proud to be a serving arm of the Nebraska Synod-ELCA and grateful for the participation and support provided by the Synod, it’s congregations and members.
*Shared by Camp Carol Joy Holling