Volunteering has always been an important part of the ALC experience. We encourage campers to step up and say "I'll help," rather than "not it." For new campers, it can take a moment to adjust to this culture. When someone asks, "will someone help me move benches?" some campers hide and hope they won’t be picked. But then a strange thing happens. They look around the Dining Room and see campers and counselors raising their hands. Soon, campers realize that they actually enjoy volunteering and helping the community. In recent years, we've had alumnae and past counselors come to camp for a week or more to serve as volunteers on our staff. Whether they jump in and cover when counselors have days off, help lead trips, teach activities, or even share their own expertise, they’re all eager to give back to ALC.
So far this summer, we've had ten past staff members return to camp to volunteer. One counselor from the 1970s taught Tennis for a few days. Another volunteer came from Nevada to take a break before her final year of medical school. The benefits of adding the volunteers to our staff are boundless. Volunteers need to be flexible (like all ALCers) and willing to help in any area. One volunteer, who is a NOLS instructor and a nursing student in Arizona, taught first aid to campers one day and organized a huge game of Capture the Flag the next. Many of last year's Sr. CTs returned and taught yoga, Ceramics, Drama, Sailing, Swimming and more. We have even welcomed some of our international alumnae - one planned her volunteering to be sure that she would be here both during the first and second sessions so that she could see all of her past campers.
What is it about ALC that draws people to give and then give some more? How is it that working nonstop for a week or more can be something that recharges and re-energizes our alumnae?
Zina wrote, "I volunteered at ALC this summer because I saw it as an opportunity to give back to the place and community that has given me so much. As a volunteer I was able to help out in nearly all areas of camp life, from showers in Paradise to the office, Jr CTs to the waterfront and Adventure. It felt like my camp career had come full circle and gave me what felt like a full summer experience packed into just a few short weeks. Though I wasn’t lucky enough to be a camper at ALC, I found camp at a time in my life when I really needed it, though I didn’t know it then. ALC shaped me into the person I am today, and truly helped me understand who I am and what I represent. My two weeks spent at camp this summer allowed me to recenter and check in with the parts of myself that are often neglected during life in the 'real world.' I was reminded that small actions can have a big impact, and my voice can be powerful beyond measure. When I return to medical school and tell my colleagues I spent two weeks backpacking with 14-year-old girls and teaching campers to sail, I will no doubt receive more than a few bemused looks in response. What they can’t understand is that now those teenaged backpackers better understand their own strength, those sailors have a new confidence in their abilities, and I was lucky enough to be along for the ride."
Just being a part of this community even for a few short days lets alumnae feel the magic of ALC again. As time marches on and our alumnae can't commit to working for a full summer, we are endlessly grateful to those who volunteer. If you are interested in volunteering next summer, let us know!