The Non Profit Spirit of Camp Management
It was a day of firsts. First, I raised my hand to offer to help cook for 120 guests who were staying at Community of the Great Commission Camp and retreat center. Then I raised my hand again to do the dishes. As the Marketing Manager for United Camps, Conferences & Retreats, venturing into one of the retreat centers I usually promote, to cook and clean, was both new and exciting.
When I arrived at 2:30pm that afternoon, the dinner crew was already washing, cutting chopping and dicing all the beautiful vegetables for the salad bar. I quickly wrapped an apron around myself and washed my hands, ready to jump in and help with whatever needed to be done.
As a home cook and a lover of fresh food, I was tasked to make the caesar salad dressing and boil 3 dozen eggs which were an addition to the salad bar. Tina, the head cook, had planned tonight’s meal and was orchestrating all the kitchen cooks and the timing of each dish. Tonight's meal was pasta with marinara and pesto sauces, regular salad bar and caesar, fresh baked french bread, roasted vegetables with carrot cake for dessert. We also offered vegetarian, gluten free and garlic free options for some campers who had special requests.
Everything was coming along nicely, the eggs were chopped and dressing made. Pots of water were hot and at the ready for the exact moment the pasta needed to start cooking. The ovens were hot and ready to receive the olive oiled, salted and peppered vegetable trays and french bread. The hot plates were being heated to keep the food warm during service and the water, ice and drinks were all filled to the brim.
Forty-five minutes before service was fun, each of us moving efficiently and swiftly, responding to Tina’s requests. The call “Oven Doors!” whenever they opened to alert all who were present not to get burned. The chatter of the campers collecting themselves in the dining hall, their bellies hungry at the wonderful scent of delicious food coming their way.
At the stroke of 6pm everything was served and the crowds swarmed the buffet tables. The sounds of laughter, talking and the beaming of smiles and the warm hearts of the good times being had by all. The pressure of the kitchen staff was lightened as we felt satisfied at another beautiful meal prepared and delivered were met with thank you’s of appreciation.
We collected momentarily, circled up in the back of the kitchen where Tina thanked us for our hard work and appreciated us for giving it our all. Then, it was back to work, one of us cleaning pots and pans, 3 of us making sure the items in the buffet were refilled and kept clean, one putting away cleaned dishes, and another getting ready to serve dessert.
I hadn’t known what kitchen camaraderie was like prior to this and I have to say I was delighted by the outcome. What is even more cherishing, is to work for a non-profit that has a can do attitude, where we raise our hand when we are needed.
Laura Chamberlin, UCCR Marketing Manager