Connecting With Our Neighbors

I have been working in the summer camp business for a couple of years now and most people seem to have an appreciation of how hectic the summer can be, but they tend to think my winter months are spent lounging around or perfecting my fantasy hockey picks. The truth is that the summer is truly the reward for all the real heavy lifting that takes place in the ‘off’ season. So what are some of the things we do when family camp isn’t running? We maintain and improve the site, market our programs, budget for the coming year, take registrations, hire seasonal staff, give tours for prospective rentals and my favorite: networking.

A lot of people in larger cities make a big deal of networking. Here in the Vermont countryside I call it something else. Meeting my neighbors. 

As many of you may have noticed, our family camp is attended by a wide variety of people from Tennessee to Tokyo and as close as Shelburne to Middlebury, Vermont. One of the challenges that we face is filling the spacious Eco-Lodge with rentals, retreats and staff trainings during the colder months. This kind of work requires that we connect with some of the amazing organizations in our very own neck of the woods, which is turning out to be a blast!
 
This fall, we noted that Jackie Mangione would be attending the Vermont Hand Crafters winter fair. We decided to call those folks up and let them know what we’re all about. We were pleasantly surprised when Elizabeth Boudreau, the VHC executive director, agreed to come out for a visit! After about half an hour on our site, she was hooked--turns out she is a camp girl at heart! We ended up promoting our Aspiring Artists Retreat at the craft fair with great success!
 
Lately we’ve been making the rounds of some of our other friends’ events. On December 8th Jim, Peg, Neily and I skidded our way into the Mad River Valley for the Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility’s event at the Yestermorrow Design/Build School. You may recognize Yestermorrow: they played an integral part in the creation of our unique cabins that make family camp so cozy and helped us do it with the smallest carbon footprint possible. It was great to see their workshops, residential spaces and meet with some of their interns and students. Another great opportunity to connect with our neighbors in the business community was at the Addison County Chamber of Commerce Holiday Mixer at the Waybury Inn in East Middlebury. The highlight of the night had to be Peg winning a door prize from the Waybury Inn…a free retreat for 12 people. The irony of a retreat center winning a free retreat did not escape us and we laughed the whole way home!
 
Sometimes networking occurs more organically. Elin networks with members of her community through the One World Library Project, which curates a collection of books, films & other media to help enlighten the greater Bristol, VT community about world cultures. Carole meets like-minded folks through her yoga classes and lactation consultations. Peg’s hiking group took it upon themselves to rent the site this month for a birthday celebration, while one of Kiesha’s 

acquaintances is planning their wedding here this summer. You get the gist—we all network in our own way simply by pursuing our interests and plugging into our communities. As always, if you know people we should know, we'd love to hear about it!

- Connor