Mike and His Amazing Volunteers!
By Judy Blase Woodruff
About ten years ago, the late Dave McCoy expressed to Dan King that his earliest volunteer experiences decades before were often challenging because Camp simply wasn’t prepared to fully utilize their help. He went on to explain that their annual volunteer workday frustration subsided as Camp became better at preparing for volunteer workers. Dave said the gradual shift became profoundly noticeable once Mike Jennings became the Ranger and Director of Maintenance at Camp Ondessonk in the mid-1990s. Mike had the tools, materials, and projects carefully outlined and ready to go for Dave’s volunteer teams from St. Albert the Great Parish in Fairview Heights (now Holy Trinity Parish). Dave appreciated Mike’s organizational skills and the resulting ability to “get to work” immediately.
Many years later, Mike is still that organized leader that Camp desperately needs when a project as big as building a staff duplex is in the works. A few weeks ago, 26 volunteers descended upon Camp to have an old fashioned “wall raising” for The Pete Korte Lodge staff duplex. Mike’s plan was bold, in that all the exterior walls and significant interior framing would be completed in just one day, Saturday, January 14th.
First, Mike secured the help of three professional carpenters: Andy Siebert of Caseyville, Ill., B.J. Hoeff of Belleville, Ill., and Jeremy Simpson of Evansville, Ill. With these experienced carpenters on board, Mike was able to build a team of volunteers around them to accomplish the goals laid out.
Several volunteers arrived Friday ready to cut lumber and stage materials for the work to be done the next day. Mike created assignments for Saturday which allowed his volunteers to carry out his vision for the day. The organization of the project leaders, and the tireless work of talented volunteers was second to none. The “wall raising” could not have been accomplished without the help of both professionals and workers, and the expert planning of Mike Jennings.
Throughout the years, volunteers have contributed to hundreds of projects at Camp Ondessonk. From building the Original Dining Hall in 1959 to planning and constructing the Garner Bridge in the mid-1960s; from raising the Hay Barn in 2006 to creating Fournie Mini-Camp Village during the winter and spring of 2014-15, the Volunteers of Ondessonk have come through in a big way. And now in 2023, the Pete Korte Lodge is no exception.
Now that the walls are up, Mike has ordered trusses and is looking to pull together a team to “raise the roof” on Saturday, February 18th.
With our sincerest appreciation for a job well done, we want to acknowledge the outstanding volunteer group who “raised the walls!”
Click Here to learn more about Volunteering at Camp Ondessonk.