I am back from the NNEC Pathfinder Fall Camporee, and sufficiently recovered now that I can type without falling over from exhaustion.

Executive summary: it was a huge success.

We arrived Friday evening about an hour later than I had intended. One of the kids was running late, and I didn’t think to force her onto the “late train” until it was too late. The “late train” is the vehicle that leaves last to pick up the kids who can’t get out of school early, and I know there was one seat available there. I got as far as calling the late train conductor and reserving a seat, and then calling the parent of the kid who was late. But by then she was within minutes of arriving, so we just waited.

It was pouring rain when we arrived. Luckily, our camp site had a lean-to on it, so we were able to pitch our little tents in the dry and then move them out into the rain and stake them down. I love using little tents, and I will add this to my long list of reasons why.

It poured all night and was raining when we woke up. I got everyone up at 6:00am and got the breakfast crew started on breakfast. Even with an early start like that, it still took forever to get breakfast ready. I am still trying to figure that one out. I think I am going to try to recruit a cook for the camporees. Most of the other clubs do this, and I understand that things go much more smoothly that way. I will still have the kids cook when we’re having a club campout and I am in control of the scheduling though, because they need to know how to do that. It’s just that I don’t think they need to learn that skill when we’ve got a ticking clock racing us.

We made it to flag raising on time, and three kids from our club raised the American flag. Then we had Sabbath School and church in a pavilion. During one of those service, the refugee girls from our club presented a song in Kirundi – the language of Burundi. It was very well received, and they did a great job.

About the time church was over, it finally quit raining. Then we had lunch. Mike Ortel, the president of our conference ate with us, and I enjoyed chatting with him. He’s a great guy. We also had Kurt Amos over for lunch. He’s a new area coordinator with our conference, and he was running this camporee. I really like him too. He was unable to stay for lunch though, as it was once again taking the kids an eternity to get the food ready, and since Kurt was running the camporee, he was unable to stay long enough to eat. I hope he found food somewhere.

By the time the kids finished eating, it was already time for the afternoon activities to begin. They had not yet washed their dishes, so I made the executive decision to send them along anyhow, and I did their dishes for them. David offered to stay behind and help me, and I very much appreciated that.

When we finished the dishes, we had the choice of finding our group in the activity rotations, or just relaxing a bit. We decided to relax, so we kicked back for half an hour and chatted. Then we caught up with our group as they finished the last two rotations.

Then it was time for a supper of grilled cheese, which seemed to go a lot smoother than the previous two meals. Maybe that’s because grilled cheese is so easy to make. Also, my friends Robbie and Coral were cooking for the Portsmouth club and had way too much soup. They gave us about two gallons of it, and it was delicious. That saved us from having to open our canned tomato soup (we’ll use it on the next campout).

We went to the evening program, the highlight of which is always a talent show (well – without awards or judging). David had written a skit (including lots of easy-to-learn parts for the kids). It was mocking an infomercial advertising “Stench-B-Gone” a fictitious deodorant. His skit was hands down the best one presented. If there had been awards and judging, this would have won.

We went to bed after that, and got up early Sunday to get ready to work the hurricane relief project I had lined up for the conference. Somehow, breakfast was ready in record time and we were ready to go when we needed to go.

Paul, David, myself, and two teen boys from my club drove up there together and checked in at the Chamber of Commerce where we met Sarah Shippee, who was our contact. She took us down to the park and explained what needed to be done.

I had intended to take lots of pictures while we worked, but found that if I did that, I couldn’t get much work done. It’s hard to shovel mud or pick up debris with a camera bag slung over the shoulder. I did get a few shots though.

Tennis Court

Tennis Court

This is the tennis court where the bulk of our work was done. We had about 90 Pathfinders there. The court was covered with mud about two inches deep, and we shoveled all that out. We also cleared the debris from the fence. The water line went up about 8 feet on the fence.

Two of my girls (one being Beth)

Two of my girls (one being Beth)

Here are two girls from my club (one of them being my daughter, Beth) picking up sticks, leaves, and trash all embedded in the fence and caked on with mud. We did this for a while when Paul decided that having 90 people in this one spot was not terribly effective. He asked me to take a group to the other park Sarah had shown us and work on that. I think it was a brilliant move, as there was a lot of crowding in the tennis court and its surrounding area.

Here is the trash we removed from the other park.

Debris pile

Debris pile

There must have been a hundred miles of yarn in that debris. My guess is that a low-lying yarn store was just upstream. We also found a lot of fire wood. I found that particularly heart-breaking, thinking about some guy diligently cutting, splitting, and stacking firewood to warm his house this winter, only to have it all swept away in one night. We stacked the firewood in a separate pile. I hope somebody picked it up and will use it, even though we only found a small pile. Still it might have been enough wood to heat a house for a week.

Around 11:30 we headed back to the tennis courts. A lot of people from Wilmington stopped and thanked us. Some honked and waved, so we waved back.

A thankful resident with her two kids, Harry Sabnani, and Sarah Shippee

A thankful resident with her two kids, Harry Sabnani, and Sarah Shippee

The lady on the left in this photo walked to the site with her two kids. She is a resident of the area and was just beside herself with joy that we were there. She cried and everything. The guy in the middle is Harry Sabnani, our conference Youth Director. Paul answers to him. The woman on the right is Sarah Shippee who arranged the project for us. She was fantastic too.

By lunch time we had finished clearing debris from the park as well the tennis courts. It was an amazing difference, and I failed to capture that difference with my camera. Sorry about that!

Some people from Home Depot had set up a free barbeque and invited our group to come and eat all the food we wanted. Little did they realize that most of our group was vegetarian, and that eating pork is against our religion. But they also had sodas, cupcakes, cookies, and bottled water which the kids gleefully accepted.

I talked with some of the people there while the kids ate cookies. He wanted to know who we are, so I gave him a briefing. He thanked us several times for coming out, and I thanked him for feeding us cookies.

Then we all headed back to Molly Stark State Park where we had been camping. We had our closing ceremonies, broke camp, piled in the car and ate a sack lunch on the way home.

I heard several people tell me that they thought this was the best camporee they had ever been on (in spite of the rain). I was absolutely thrilled that we were able to serve that community. I think it would have been a crime for us to camp in the middle of a disaster zone and do nothing more than roast marshmallows.

When I got home I had six wet tents to pitch, but I just tossed them onto the deck too exhausted to do anything about them. I pitched them this evening though, and when they are dry, I will take them down again.

I am still pretty tired! And now I need to go down to the basement and see if I can figure out why the washing machine doesn’t spin. :-/

I spent part of last evening on the phone with some people from Vermont. Those of you who have been following this blog for the past month or so can probably guess what that was about – the Pathfinders have a volunteer assignment to help clean up after Hurricane Irene.

Our Conference Pathfinder Fall Camporee has been scheduled for Molly Stark State Park in Wilmington, VT for about a year. Actually, it’s been a little longer than that. It was either last year of the year before that we were scheduled to have our Camporee there, but there was a tremendous storm in the forecast, so we had to back away. This was more than a thunderstorm, but less than a hurricane. I think it has taken us two years to get back to Molly Stark.

My first Camporee in the Northern New England Conference was at Molly Stark, and I was looking forward to going back there.

Then came Irene.

It didn’t look like we would be able to camp there at all, since parts of Wilmington were unreachable by road. However, Molly Stark was (and is) still reachable, and it sustained little damage (even though it was right in the thick of it).

My involvement with Pathfinders and Adventist Community Services – Disaster Response (ACS-DR) put me in a unique position to try to get our organizations to coordinate and help out. I thought ACS-DR might deploy to set up a warehouse, but that did not happen (we do not have a formal agreement with Vermont yet). Then I asked our conference Pathfinder leadership if they would be open to having us help out while we were there camping. They were open to it if I could find us an opportunity.

So I went back through ACS-DR who went through Vermont’s VOAD (Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster). Things were moving along, but slowly! Finally I got a deadline from the Pathfinder leadership – if we didn’t have an assignment by Friday, we would not be able to help. As Pathfinders, we needed time to organize the clubs in our conference and have them ready to work. That’s not a surprise we can spring on the clubs when they arrive ready to camp.

The organizations in Vermont got back to me initially saying that they were still buried. People didn’t know what they would be doing in two days, much less in a week. I was bounced back up the chain, and a guy at SerVermont kept at it. He put me in touch with someone in Wilmington, and she had the perfect opportunity for us – cleaning river debris from the municipal park.

I closed the loop with the Pathfinders last night, went to bed, and then had a hard time sleeping, wondering how we were going to manage to volunteer on Friday afternoon (we had proposed two times – Friday afternoon and Sunday morning).

I met with Paul at church this morning – this is the same Paul who has been teaching the Fire Safety and Fire Fighting honors to our club. He is the Pathfinder Leadership in our Conference, and he is a member of my local church. He had decided to cancel the activities that had been planned for the Sunday morning of the Camporee and serve that community instead. We were a go (he apparently thought that Friday was not a very workable option either). He sent the official announcement out to all the conference Pathfinder clubs this evening describing our assignment. The description included the list of tools I received from my contact in Vermont: wheelbarrows, pickup trucks, a few chainsaws, yard waste bags, iron rakes, flat shovels, work boots we can get wet, work gloves, and nitro gloves to wear underneath them.

I think it would have been a crime for a large youth-oriented service organization such as my beloved Pathfinders to camp in the middle of a disaster area and do nothing more than roast marshmallows.

All systems go.