It is the middle of the winter, and GFC is alive with activity. Up to 850 campers and staff members are eating, sleeping, playing soccer and basketball, and watching movies. Our bunks are full and the Chadar Ochel is buzzing with conversation…in Spanish. Greene Family Camp is providing shelter, food, and supportive programming to hundreds of refugee children from Central America who have arrived in the US without their parents. This project began just prior to New Years and will last until mid-January. It is similar to our efforts in the weeks just prior to the summer of 2014. We were told about the need, and we felt that filling it was the right thing to do.
We are operating in partnership with BCFS, a global system of non-profit health and human service organizations operating programs throughout the U.S., Eastern Europe, Latin America, Southeast Asia and Africa. We have worked with BCFS in the past, and have been impressed by their professionalism and expertise. We have also done similar work with the American Red Cross in the aftermaths of Hurricanes Ike and Rita, when immediate short-term shelter was needed for refugee families from Houston and the Gulf Coast. Because of our facilities and our capacity, as well as our attention to safety and sanitation, we are a natural location for efforts like this.
We have coordinated at every step with the senior leadership of the Union For Reform Judaism (GFC’s parent body), and they are completely supportive of this decision. Lay leaders and professional staff at the URJ were instrumental in guiding us through the set-up.
This has been an amazing group effort. Jake Levy, our Operations Manager, has been driving the event on the ground here in Bruceville. Our new Food Service Manager, Jack Burkett, has been getting a real workout. Chad Friedensohn came back to help run the kitchen again. Stefani Rozen, JD Brow, Mackenzie Siegel, Dan Lee, Mindy Michaels, Kevin Solka, Jonathan Dobin, Sheila Dobin, Craig and Sandy Row, Rose and April have all pitched in. Members of our summer kitchen staff came back in off winter break to work. As did members of our Housekeeping and Maintenance staffs. Everyone has pitched in.
While we haven’t publicized this, some press coverage has come our way in spite of our best efforts. Rabbi Jeff Salkin wrote a nice piece that was picked up by the Washington Post. You can read it here.
When we began this project, we also began reading the book of Sh’mot (Exodus). We began the story of our own travels from Egypt back to Israel. We read of how our ancestors made their way to a better life, a different life and most importantly, a life that allowed them to live freely. The parallels are clear and we see GFC’s ability to provide a temporary safe haven to these refugee children as a way to help them on their journey to freedom and a life without fear.
With best wishes for a joyous 2016,
Loui Dobin Steve Donchin
Executive Director Camp Committee Chair