Former Assistant Director, Eric Schuster shares his experience from his return to GFC after many years away. Welcome Home, Eric!
The URJ Greene Family Camp is my second home. My brothers and I have been going to GFC since 1983, and I spent 18 summers as a camper, counselor, unit head, and finally Asst. Director. I lived on camp year-round for those last few years and had such a wonderful time learning how to manage a large operation, developing new skills, and building lifelong relationships. I was given the opportunity to take responsibility and ownership over the operations to ensure that camp ran successfully week in and week out. Amazingly, it has already been 11 years since I left my role as Asst. Director to pursue my MBA and move to the corporate world.
One of the great things about camp, is that it will always continue to evolve. The strong vision, leadership, and operational excellence that comes from Loui, Stefani, the full-time staff, and the camp committee enables camp to continue to advance and modernize while keeping the traditional camp experience.
Recently, I had the opportunity to return to GFC with my wife, Eden. It was the first weekend during session 2 and as soon as we pulled up to the gate, I felt the excitement in my bones! I couldn’t wait to see all the new updates, and we hadn’t visited camp since the 40th reunion, four years ago. As we parked and entered camp, we were immediately greeted by the one and only, Loui Dobin. Then we started to see more and more people that we knew. It’s amazing that after so many years, I can show up at GFC, and it instantly feels like home again.
We joined the entire camp in the dining room for Saturday brunch, and connected with many friends, such as Stefani Rozen, Carly and Ted Cera, Caitlin Smith, Steve and Suzie Daum, and others. Someone accidentally said the word “announcements” over the microphone, and the entire camp wouldn’t let that slide. So much nostalgia hitting me at once.
After brunch, Loui gave us a private tour of the new updates. We started with the brand new, state of the art, performing arts center. There is a beautiful walkway that leads to the front door, and when you open the door, you’re greeted with a wall right in front of you. Now, in your own house, you may not want that, but in a performing arts center it makes perfect sense. You don’t want the light from the outside disturbing mid-performance. Loui has thought of everything. The place is huge with high end screens, lighting, sound, and a massive stage. In the back, there are even dressing rooms where you can watch what is happening on stage as you prepare for your part of the act. This is now another great place for the entire camp to enjoy all sorts of experiences, and it’s even UIL certified!
Then we took the golf cart down to the cabins, where the cabins have been redone. The green color is perfect for camp, and the Hardie plank siding will ensure that these new updates last for a long time. There were many thoughtful nuances on the outside and inside of the cabins. For example, they reconfigured the cubbies and beds to provide more space and efficiency. Everything looks great! Half of the cabins were updated, and the other half along with the staff cabins will be done soon!
On to the motels! The colors and materials on the outside of the motels match the new cabins. You can see the continuity across camp. We checked out the new fireplace lounge, and it is completely different. If you haven’t seen it yet, you’ll be floored. It has a whole new feel, and there is a deck attached. Imagine hanging out on the deck and looking towards the lake. Guess what…trees were removed near Loui’s house so that you can see the lake from the new deck. One can only imagine what that looks like at sunset.
We also saw the brand-new day-care area. This isn’t just a room for kids to play. This is a whole new operation for children of faculty and local staff. As a parent of two kids, I can appreciate this!
Finally, we went to the old dining room / Beit Ha’am / Art Room. There were great updates here from the addition of sliding walls to turning the old “meat locker” / bike room into an outdoor area. While we were there, we met with Daniel Zarum. He is the current Rosh Mishlachat, but he was the camp Magician in a prior year. Back when I was an Asst. Director, Loui and I decided that we wanted to be the first URJ camp to have a magic activity. I was already performing magic around camp and as a feature for the Friday night staff meetings. So, we created that activity and I taught it back in 2007. Now magic is a mainstay activity that the kids can enjoy at many of the URJ camps, and it’s thriving at GFC with 2 great magicians on site this summer!
Daniel and I met and talked briefly about some “underground” magic, and then we took turns performing for people in the art room. I believe that Amy Ross called it a “showdown” over the radio! Daniel had a couple decks of cards, so he gave me a deck, and then he proceeded to perform mindreading effects for Eden. I then used his cards and performed some mind-boggling card magic for the spectators who were watching. It was a lot of fun, and Daniel is a great guy and legitimate magician.
Eden and I had so much fun experiencing camp, even though it was too short (only a few hours). We hope to be back again next year for the 45th reunion!