Looking for some more information on working at a co-ed sleep away camp? Jennifer DeSpagna- the Director at Camp Timber Lake West answers our camp director Q&As!
Tell us a little bit about your camp?
Timber Lake West is a traditional, co-ed four-week sleep-away summer camp. We power-pack a full summer of fun into an exciting four-week experience for every one of our campers. Located in New York’s Catskill Mountains, Timber Lake West is just over 2 hours northwest of New York City and 3 hours from Philadelphia. Set on a mountaintop, its 380 secluded acres features its own private spring-fed lake and an outstanding array of summer camp facilities.
At Timber Lake West, we foster the values of sharing, integrity, responsibility and respect in a friendly, safe and fun environment. Campers learn to value others by being valued themselves. They leave camp with memories that will last a lifetime. It is what Camp was always meant to be.
At Timber Lake West, our commitment is to provide the highest level of service and excellence in the camping profession. Constantly innovating and moving forward, Timber Lake West’s facilities, program and staff development are second to none.
Our camps’ mission is to teach children the skills of making and keeping friends, while building their self-esteem, self-confidence and resilience.
How long have you worked in camping?
38 years – 2 at day camp, 4 at the Camp Cod Sea Camps in Massachusetts and the last 32 at Timber Lake West
What’s your favourite thing about camp?
I think people are their best selves in Camp and Camp brings out the best in people.
When was your camp established?
1987, our first summer was 1988
What’s your favourite special event or evening activity at camp?
Color War! It truly is the culmination of camp. The spirit, teamwork and camaraderie are second to none
What’s the most popular meal at camp?
Chicken Tenders or Quesadillas and fresh baked Chocolate Chip Cookies
Why do you hire international staff?
Why not! It is great for community building. What better way to teach tolerance, appreciation and respect than first hand by having folks from various walks of life on staff
What qualities do you find the best camp counsellors have?
We look for counselors who understand what a huge impact they will make in their camper’s lives and the power of relationship building. We want counselors who are proactive: can anticipate problems before they happen, recognize when your campers are sick or sad or not feeling like they fit in. These are the counselors who the following year, when they return will say “I want my kids, again.”
The J1 visa is a cultural exchange visa- what would you recommend your camp counsellors visit in the surrounding area to your camp when they are on their days off?
Our staff take advantage of all the area has to offer from the true American breakfast experience at The Famous Roscoe Diner to relaxing near the stream or a lake in one of our local state parks to shopping at the Middletown Mall or the Woodbury Shopping Outlets or visiting the College towns of Oneonta and Ithaca. Staff have travelled to Niagara Falls, New York City or the Jersey Shor on their days off.
What would be your words of wisdom to new camp counsellors?
There is a quote, “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” I think this says it all for new counselors; we congratulate you on taking this leap of faith and joining us for the summer of a lifetime. Put yourself out their because camp is where you are going to build those relationships that last a lifetime.