“Back to the 1970s”: Summer camp faltered due to staff and supply shortages

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Two weeks after the course started this summer, Camp Caribou, a boy camp in Winslow, Maine, received a worrying message from its long-term food supplier: Due to a shortage of warehouse labor, the camp’s $10,000 order could not be completed. .

Bill Lerman, the second of the three Lerman generations who run Caribou, offered to collect food by himself. “They said,’No,'” he recalled. “‘We don’t even have enough staff to pick orders.'”

With the change of suppliers, a U-Haul truck and repeated trips to the local Sam’s Club and Wal-Mart, Lermans managed to feed more than 260 campers in Caribou. This is just one of the many challenges they and other children’s summer camps have encountered in a different season.

A summer camp horror story appeared in New Hampshire earlier this month when it was forced to close a few days after the start of the summer camp due to a shortage of food and staff. Lord of the FliesHe fell into chaos, accompanied by vomiting and quarreling.

The person in charge of the camp said that the incident was extreme and may be related to inexperienced management, or it may be related to a broader situation.

Nonetheless, the challenges facing the camp show that Covid-19-related issues in the U.S. economy hinder not only large, complex manufacturers such as automakers, but also family businesses in remote areas of Maine, which are the U.S. economy. The main component. American summer.

“Every hand is doing every job,” said Martha Leman of the Reindeer Camp, left © SLYPHOTOGRAPHY

“This is a huge challenge,” said Ron Hall, executive director of the Maine Summer Camp, a non-profit organization representing 151 camps in the state, some of which are more than a century old. “I think the camp has never dealt with such a thing.”

The Reindeer Camp opened in 1922 on a peninsula that extends into the cool waters of Patti Pond. It offers one to two months courses for boys from 7 to 15 years old. Many people come back from summer to summer to participate in sports, make handicrafts, canoeing, and usually give their parents a break. This retreat was particularly popular in the 1940s as a means of sending children out of crowded cities during the polio outbreak.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, last summer marked the first time in the history of reindeer that the season was forced to cancel. The Lemans refunded $950,000 in tuition fees and have not paid their own fees for 16 months.

After a winter of exchanges with other camps on public health practices, the reindeer reopened and are now working to protect a primitive, virus-free bubble. Parents are required to pre-test their children for Covid-19 and then quarantine them for 10 days before they reach the camp. Caribou then performed his own tests, transporting the samples to a laboratory in Orono 65 miles away for rapid processing. It also hired additional nurses.

The Lemans have been trying to keep their activities roughly the same. Nevertheless, some things have changed. The dance with the nearby women’s camp has been cancelled. Employees are forbidden to leave the camp, even on the night of rest. In order to give them some time to rest, the Lemans created a temporary lounge in which they held the right amount of beer and wine. The worrying thing is that even a single Covid-19 case can cause an outbreak and then shut down completely-as has happened in other camps across the country.

“It’s definitely a lot of work, and there is no doubt that everyone is doing every job,” said Martha Lerman, Bill’s wife and camp supervisor. It’s also expensive: she points out that food costs alone have risen by 35% this summer.

Bill Leman (left) and Martha Leman (front right) with their family. Unlike previous years, the consultants in their camp are almost entirely American © SLYPHOTOGRAPHY

The biggest challenge is the employees. Every year, about 25,000 young people between 18 and 25 years old come from abroad to work as counselors in summer camps in the United States on the J-1 visa in the 1960s, which is designed to promote cultural exchanges. Many counselors from the UK usually work in the camp for 9 weeks and then have 30 days to travel in the United States.

However, due to the Covid travel ban and the backlog of the U.S. Embassy, ​​the flow of short-term workers has been interrupted. An executive of a company that helped arrange visas said: “We have been talking on the phone with the camp all day, and they are struggling because they don’t have enough manpower.”

Less than two weeks before the start of the camp, Quinebarge’s supervisor warned on social media that the staffing situation was “desperate”. Hall pointed out that some directors were forced to do kitchen work, and a camp in Maine was said to have been waiting for 40 British people who had never been there.

Even before Covid, the camp was worried that Donald Trump’s election might lead to visas. Bill Leman and his son-in-law Alex Rotman travel to universities across the United States to recruit.

This is not an easy task: Many American students would rather get internship opportunities to improve their career prospects than worry about children who cost about $3,500 a month in summer camps. In order to generate interest, the Lemans provide signing bonuses to employees who recommend new employees. This is different from the time when agents provided ready-made supplies of Australian water ski coaches, English football coaches and Mexican tennis professionals.

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“We are spoiled by international players,” Bill Leman said. “Now we are back in the 1970s.”

For the first time in decades, this year’s 90 consultants are almost entirely American. Before arriving at the camp, all but two were vaccinated. So far, no one has tested positive-although a consultant recently left the camp because his parents were hospitalized for Covid-19.

It is too early to know what will bring next year. For now, the Lemans seem to be grateful to be able to get this far. Martha said: “If we can’t open the next year, we will have trouble.”

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