“I’ve been coming to camp at One Heartland since 2012,” Allison Jones said. “Originally, I was in a volunteer program called AmeriCorps NCCC. My campus was in Iowa. Throughout my 10 months of service, we got sent to different organizations. My second project was here to One Heartland, where we did some maintenance, went through staff training and were counselors for two weeks. I fell in love with the magic of camp, how fun it was, how much I grew as a person. I knew I wasn’t done growing.”
Jones went back to One Heartland as a summer counselor in 2013 and 2014, then was offered a full-time position in October 2014. As a Program Coordinator, Jones said, “I do all sorts of things during the summer months. I do the hiring of summer counselors, and then I help out with the leadership team during the summer. I help where needed, make sure counselors have what they need. I do a lot of miscellaneous things. Sometimes I lifeguard the pool for canoeing, sometimes I’m in the kitchen helping out. I lead songs. Every day is a little bit different.”
Still, Jones said, One Heartland has its traditions as well. “We have a welcome song that we sing to all of our campers when they arrive, and also new staff and guests when they arrive. We repeat it over and over again, so sometimes we’ll repeat the song 50 times.
“I think one thing that always stays true is making friendship bracelets. By the end of the summer all staff will have their arms full of friendship bracelets.”
In addition to what Jones calls the “traditional fun — doing arts, pool time, sports”, the camp offers sessions covering everything from body image and healthy eating to healthy relationships, crockpot meals and interview skills. “Every year I’m in charge of program, maybe changing some programs, adding programs, making them more fun,” Jones said. “I’m in charge of making sure camp is fun. I make sure that I have fun at least most of the day.”
During the off season, Jones recruits volunteer groups to come help at the camp and goes to career fairs to recruit summer counselors, in addition to “helping out the camp director with anything that needs to be done.”
What’s the best part of the job?
I never had the opportunity to go to summer camp as a kid. I got to live out my childhood dream. I always just like to say that I’m making up for lost time. I have a few extra responsibilities, but as a counselor I got to experience what it was like to be in a cabin and do the activities.
What is the biggest challenge?
Every day there’s the challenge of not getting too exhausted because you’re working long hours. Then there are the day-to-day challenges — being flexible, switching and changing things quickly. That can be a challenge for me personally. The more I work here, the better I get at it. Challenge is not a bad thing — I have a good support system.
What’s unique about One Heartland?
I think the unique part of this camp is we have education in each session as well as canoeing, fishing, arts and crafts. Our goal is not only are campers here for a week of fun, but they also can take home something to their regular life. □