By Aram Madenlian
Several generations of campers and counselors have learned vital facts about Armenian history and culture–shared in games and crafts–all while making lifelong friends at AYF Camp–now in existence for over two and a half decades. It is difficult to explain how a group of people that hardly know one another at the beginning of a week can come together–sleep–eat–and play–to become like family after only seven days.
There are a myriad of reasons why we return to Camp each year–whether it is the pride you feel when you see an eight-year-old tearfully and passionately talking about his great grandparents and the importance of genocide recognition or watching a group of campers sing "Verkerov Lee" in unison. As we have all grown older–it is these memories that encourage us to volunteer our time in maintaining and improving camp for future generations.
No matter what your age–you always feel a sense of connection to camp. As a camper–you would eagerly wait all summer long for those one or two weeks that you and your friends had talked about all year long. All of those detailed discussions about what color group (Red–Blue–or Orange) you wanted to be in or what counselor you hoped you had–or in some cases for the ones who were a little strict you hoped you wouldn’t have–were of utmost importance.
As 17-year-olds–many of us suffered from AYF Camp withdrawal. The camper age range is 8-16; however–you must be at least 18 years of age to be a counselor. That leaves a one-year gap away from AYF Camp–and for many it is a year too long.
Most counselors are college students–who work part time–but choose to volunteer their time to the camp for a number of reasons. Most counselors feel a deep sense of loyalty and responsibility not only to AYF Camp–but most importantly–to the campers. Passing on what they have learned at Camp and continuing the traditions is an integral part of that process. They want to be remembered as "great counselors" and positive role models for their campers. Ultimately–many counselors aspire to be director one day.
It is–once again–that sense of connection that draws the director back. Usually settled with family and career–a director takes a week of his or her vacation time and decides to spend it at camp. While the safety of campers is of paramount importance–the director also has to ensure that the campers are having fun while also learning about the Armenian Cause. A good director will know how to ignite that "spirit" inside the campers and counselors.
Unfortunately–"spirit" alone is not enough to sustain our camp structurally–as AYF Camp is in dire need of renovation. In recent years–the Management Board has made it a priority to upgrade the facilities and as a result–a master plan was implemented for the renovation of AYF Camp. Improvemen’s were prioritized according to importance and necessity. It was immediately assessed that the roofs on all of the cabins would not withstand another harsh winter; the Board–subsequently–planned to replace the roofs on all of the cabins.
Beginning in May 2003–the Board organized the first of a series of camp improvement weekends. The Board members–along with a core group of volunteers–undertook the implementation of this project. These twelve volunteers removed two to three layers of asphalt shingle roofing–cut and installed new plywood panels–and installed a new 40-year asphalt shingle roof on cabins 4,5,6,7–and 10.
In June 2003–a new walk-in freezer–along with a new motor–was installed in the kitchen. The installation was completed by a volunteer who donated his time–tools–and a portion of the materials at no cost to the camp.
In July 2003–three new commercial grade hot water heaters were installed in all of the camper bathrooms. The volunteer provided the three 1,000 gallon water heaters at his cost–as well as his time–tools–and a portion of the materials. Also in July 2003–the ARF Shant chapter organized a work weekend–where members assembled and installed 33 new bunk beds–installed curtains in all of the cabins–and painted the interiors of cabins 1–2–3–4–and 8.
In October 2003–the Board members and a group of volunteers removed and replaced the roofs of cabins 8 and 9. In addition–cabin 8 was essentially rebuilt from the ground up–starting from the framing–to the installation of new windows–doors–siding–and a new electrical panel. A member of the Management Board donated the majority of the materials for cabin 8.
In March of 2004–the same group of volunteers removed and replaced the roofs of cabins 2 and 3.
In May and June 2004–a contractor was hired to completely renovate the Boy’s bathroom downstairs. The framing was replaced one stud at a time. New sheathing–weatherproofing–exterior plywood–and siding were installed. The old plumbing and electrical were also replaced. In addition–new shower fixtures–toilets–urinals–sinks–windows–and doors were installed all accented with a natural slate stone tile.
In June 2004–a small group of volunteers installed the interior drywall and painted the exterior of cabin 8.
In October 2004–volunteers removed and replaced the roofs of cabin 1 and the roof of the boy’s bathroom.
All these improvemen’s were necessary for Camp to continue its daily operations. They are–however–just the beginning. The AYF Camp Management Board has made this revitalization effort its top priority and is counting on you for your support.
In December 2004–Dr. Garo Chalian pledged to sponsor the renovation of the infirmary ($25,000) in memory of his father. Actions have always spoken louder than words for the Chalian Family as a whole. Whether as campers–counselors–directors–or board members–the Chalian Family has always been involved in the Camp. Their role as activists within our community has truly benefited us all. We are confident Dr. Chalian’s generosity will be contagious amongst our community members and that it will start the 2005 year with the momentum needed to see our revitalization project through to its fruition. The improvemen’s on the infirmary are scheduled to start in May 2005.
The following is a complete list of future improvemen’s for which the board is seeking sponsorship:
*Renovation of the Girl’s Bathrooms–$25,000
*Renovation of the Infirmary–(Sponsorship Secured – Dr. Garo Chalian)
*Renovation of the Camp Fire Pit–(Sponsorship Secured – Garo Madenlian Fund)
*Renovation of the Pool and Pool Bathrooms–$75,000
*Renovation of the Kitchen–$50,000
*Renovation of Cabins 1–2–3–4–5–6–7–9–10–$12,000 Each
*Renovation of the Staff Cabin–$15,000
*Renovation of the Lodge–$100,000
*Renovation of the Arts and Crafts–$30,000
*Construction of a New Cabin–$15,000
*Renovation of the Caretaker Cabin–$15,000
If you choose to become a sponsor–your name will be listed on the structure you have chosen and will remain there for as long as the Camp is in operation. Donations are not limited to sponsorships–any and all donations are welcomed and appreciated. For more information regarding sponsorship and donations–please contact Aram Madenlian at (714) 719-4608.