Mission & History

MISSION
The Nature Camp Foundation provides financial, material and service support to Nature Camp through the focused efforts of the camp’s friends and alumni.

HISTORY
The Nature Camp Foundation was formally organized in 1989 as a 501c(3) tax-exempt organization as a way to help keep alumni and friends of Nature Camp in touch with each other and to support the camp itself. It was an outgrowth of several reunions of former campers of the 1960s and ‘70s, many of whom sought ways to remain connected and to provide needed financial support for the camp during a period of increasing austerity. The initiative was strongly supported by Colonel Jack Reeves, who was Camp Director for 25 years, because the Virginia Federation of Garden Clubs, Nature Camp’s original benefactor, was having increasing difficulty funding some programs, and there was no “rainy day” pool of funds available to meet emergency expenditures.

The first edition of The Afterglow newsletter actually preceded the formation of NCF by one year and went to all alumni whose addresses could be located. In addition to relevant Nature Camp news, it included a questionnaire asking for volunteers and advice on setting up a permanent organization. As a result, Nature Camp Foundation was created with five officers: president, secretary, treasurer and two at-large members. Committee chairs were formed for education, resource development and long-range planning. The first adult session (originally called the Mountain Ecology Workshop) was held in 1990; by 1991 the NCF had a bank balance of $8,000. Interest on that account allowed the Foundation to make the first of its annual and increasingly generous unrestricted gifts to Nature Camp of $100.

NCF membership and its bank balance gradually rose over the years as more campers passed through Nature Camp. By 2005 almost 300 alumni, parents and friends were on its rolls, and over $250,000 was in its accounts.

The next two years, 2005 and 2006, proved decisive, as VFGC’s limited ability to support Nature Camp was underscored. Inspection of the swimming pool in 2005 showed a complete restoration was needed to keep it from being closed for safety and health reasons. Repairs were estimated at over $45,000, a cost VFGC could not meet. A “Save the Pool” appeal went out to NCF members, and some $28,000 – over half the cost of the project – was raised and given to VFGC. Camp opened on schedule in 2006, pool included.

The cost of the pool, however, was only part of the long-term renovation Nature Camp needed. Most of its buildings were 50 years old, and the plumbing for water and sewage and especially the electrical wiring systems needed major upgrades. A preliminary estimate of the cost of repairing those systems was $200,000 later revised to $400,000. Faced with these looming costs and the safety and liability issues arising if they were not met, VFGC decided, in September 2006 to cease its support of Nature Camp and close it down.

On October 29, 2006, in the Lillian Schilling Building at Nature Camp, a packed meeting of over 200 supporters passed a motion of continuing Nature Camp as an independent entity. The assembly decided to acquire Nature Camp, its resources and intellectual property from VFGC; to form a new organization to own and operate the camp (eventually to become Nature Camp, Inc.); and to leave the NCF legally unchanged, so it could be the locus of fundraising that had to begin immediately.

Camp had to be in a position to open as usual the next summer, or the loss of momentum would threaten its future. Hard work by innumerable individuals, led by Director Flip Coulling, ensured the new legal and administrative structure was in place for Nature Camp to open its doors on time in 2007. Meanwhile, the NCF led the fund raising effort with Campaign for Nature Camp, which eventually raised over $600,000. Designs for renovations were updated and the major work on the water, sewage, and electrical systems – costing $522,000 – was completed in spring 2008. Once again Camp was able to open that summer without a break. Nature Camp has run at or near capacity in its youth and adult sessions ever since.

Today, the NCF board has five officers: president, vice president, secretary, treasurer and one at-large member, all elected for three-year terms by the membership. There are four committee chairs: communications, development, facilities, and finance, each appointed for three-year terms by the president upon board approval. Terms of office are staggered to minimize block turnover.

Besides raising funds, the NCF holds two service weekends a year, when volunteers come to do repair work throughout the camp at the beginning and end of each summer; the NCF also hosts hikes and other events every year and reunions every five years; keeps over 2,600 supporters connected through websites, social medial outlets, The Afterglow newsletter; and supports several annual scholarships for campers in need.

SERVICE WEEKEND UPDATES

Fall Service Weekend 2016

     Fall Service Weekend 2016 was a resounding success with milestones achieved and grand, new projects announced. All of the buildings in Camp have been re-roofed during a recent Service Weekend and are now better protected from the elements. Those tireless laborers who have shucked old roofing, hefted heavy packs of new shingles on […]