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I’m a Camper Series #1: Phil Jenkins

Based on our recent Apple Pie weekend, as well as a robust summer camp turnout with more programming expected in Summer of 2024, Pilgrim Pines continues to be a healing oasis. The question is why? Is it the property? The fresh mountain air? The food? (Which is AMAZING for camp cuisine.) A hearty “YES!” to all of the above, but we wouldn’t have any of this if it weren’t for the people. It’s our community that is the glue to our healing pine tree oasis.


As part of a new monthly series, we are highlighting individuals who return to camp year after year to rest, connect and create memories of a lifetime withfamily and friends. Our first piece features Phil Jenkins.

He’s a dad.

He’s our fearless Board of Directors Chair.

And he’s a camper.

How long have you been attending Pilgrim Pines?
“In a way, you could say I've been coming up to camp since before my birth. My grandfather (George Jenkins) was the camp director in the 1950's and 60's. He and his family moved on to the camp property fulltime at around 1960, so my father (John) was living at camp from that time until he graduated high school. But I first came to camp as a small child with my family for family camp with First Congregational Church, Pasadena.” 


What are your earliest memories?
“I remember once arriving for family camp at night and it was foggy. We were playing in and around the large oak tree that is out front of the dining hall. That tree is still there.”

Who did you come back with and why?
“I know I kept coming back for family camps each year and then when I was old enough, I started coming as a junior camper. Now, I keep coming back because it is a place where I get to experience the peace at camp and to have the ‘mountain top’ experience of renewal and recharge.” 


Name some of your more recent memories as well as one stand out experience at Apple Pie Day.

“I remember family pod camps during Covid restrictions. It was a wonderful way to experience being at camp in a whole new way. I don't have one stand out experience of an Apple Pie Day but I'm always so happy seeing the intergenerational gathering of folks each year at Apple Pie Day and my kids really like that day as it gets them back up to camp after school starts.”


What are some top ways you have changed because of coming to camp?
“I think at some point in my young adult life while at camp I discovered how the Christian teachings I learned growing up in the church (and at camp) really began to make sense to me; things like help others, feed others, welcome the stranger in my midst and that we were meant to make a positive difference in the world, maybe even help to transform the world (or at least my part of the world) into a better place.”


Why do you keep coming back?
“I just like being up there. Using the lodges, smelling the pine scented air, listening to the wind blowing through the trees and getting to see my camp friends are all reasons I keep coming back. I also keep coming back because my children now come for summer camp. Plus, I'm currently the chair of the Pilgrim Pines Board of Directors.”

Why would someone new come?
“To get away from life down the hill for a while, to experience the peace that exists at Pilgrim Pines.”

Can people rent out cabins with their community group should they want to do a workshop or have a holiday?

“Yes, absolutely. The camp is a great place for these things. It's also a great place to host retreats. It caters to church groups and non-profit organizations with their gatherings. A big goal for camp in the coming year is to get more people back up to Pilgrim Pines. In this transition time, getting more people, especially Southern California and Nevada UCC congregations is one of the best ways for us all to support our camp as we work toward making it a financially sustainable operation.”


What has changed with the Pilgrim Pines campus/programs and what is the same?
“The camp experience is always changing, evolving even as some things stay the same. In the camp's Mission and Vision statement (you can find it on the homepage of the camp's website) one goal in it really speaks to me right now: To seek to create a peaceful and healing community in which people learn to cooperate in an inclusive and diverse setting. I think this may have always been an aim for folks at camp to strive for, but in 2023 and the coming years I hope we can really work intentionally to live this out in new ways. Pilgrim Pines should be and can be a place where people of ALL walks of life can be in a safe space and LEARN how to live/work side by side in this time of such diverse ideas, thoughts and perspectives.”


Community and Connection is a Choice

Studies show that people who are active members of a loving community are more hopeful, less angry and live longer, but peace and joy don’t just happen - we must CHOOSE it. We hope you’ll choose Pilgrim Pines. Like Phil, you can create memories that will last a lifetime. As the song we often sing suggests, “God made us a circle of friends.” We can’t wait to see you on the mountain!


Written by Andrea Paventi









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