Volunteer Program Thrives in 2017
By Edwin Cook
OZARK, IL: Since the start of Camp Ondessonk, volunteers have been a driving force to the functionality and success of the Camp [Ondessonk] experience. Many of the buildings standing today were built by volunteers willing to forego vacation days and precious hours of time to make Camp a special place. Lucia Hodges, among many other positions, is Camp’s volunteer coordinator. This is an important position; we average 10-40 volunteers per session of summer camp.
The original units, bridges, dining hall and chapel are examples of structures built by volunteers. Jim Shively, a former staff member and current volunteer has been involved with Camp since the 1960’s. He has volunteered in three different sessions this summer, working with our maintenance team. “Camp has been such an important part of my life for many years. I’m glad I have the opportunity to come back and provide my service to a place I care so much about.” When Shively is present at camp, you’ll often see him repairing catwalks, bridges, and hanging out at Central [maintenance building].
Steve ‘Bush’ Bushong, a former staff member has volunteered for 14 years. In 2017 he volunteered during sessions 1, 4, and 7. During his first two weeks he stayed with units of Raganeau and Chabanel [Boys Week]. ‘Bush’ is looked at as a role model to many of the current staff because of his willingness to talk and listen to the staff and campers, but also his ability to provide ‘a larger than life’ sense of humor to the entire camp. Camp hosted the Girl Scouts of Mt. Vernon, IL for the second time, ‘Bush’ and his wife Teresa, were adult volunteers attached to their unit. After a great week, he explained the thanks he gives to Camp each year. “[Executive Director] Dan King always thanks me for coming back to help out. However, every time he mentions it, I stop him and say, ‘no Dan, thank you and all of your staff for letting me volunteer.’” Bushong’s son Justin, 19, is a current member of general staff.
Throughout 2017 we hosted volunteers of all ages giving their time to Camp. During session 8 former staff members Xavier Tolbert, 24, and Patrick Oster, 21, have come back to volunteer as unit leaders. In 2016, Tolbert was Camp’s head counselor; Oster was unit leading. Tolbert explained his enthusiasm as a first-time volunteer. “I’m excited to be able to connect with the younger staff members and provide them with leadership and guidance. I have been involved with Camp [Ondessonk] for nearly a decade, so I know trials and triumphs each staff member endures throughout the summer.” Oster volunteered in aquatics during session 1and came back as a co-unit leader for session 8. His admiration for volunteering reflects in the work done at Camp. “What we do here, even on staff, goes far beyond our paychecks. When I was on staff I never worked here because I was getting paid. I worked because I loved [Ondessonk]. Now as a volunteer, I can come back and share the experiences one more time.”
We thank our volunteers for all of their hard work throughout the year. They contribute to the mission of Camp Ondessonk, many of their work being done behind the scenes of traditional camp.