News and Resources from the Upstate New York Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

Tag Archives: vanderkamp

New Vanderkamp Directors

Bill and Penny James, the new Executive Directors of Vanderkamp Center, are Presbyterians and native Central New Yorkers. Each holds advanced degrees and are experienced in camp and conference center administration. Prior to returning to college as a non-traditional student, Bill worked in construction for more than 15 years, including running his own residential and light commercial remodeling business. Vanderkamp will be the fourth summer camp program with which Penny has worked and the third where she has served as the director. Bill grew up attending church camp with the Susquehanna Valley Presbytery.

They have worked together over much of their careers. Bill has worked with Penny at two summer camps. Conversely, Penny has worked with Bill at two collegiate adventure recreation programs and assisted him in construction personally and professionally. Together they remodeled two homes, operated a construction business, as well as worked on high and low ropes course maintenance and design over the years. They have both been involved in teaching outdoor, environmental, and adventure education for more than 15 years, often with the same organizations. Bill is also a certified instructor with the American Red Cross for Wilderness First Aid and CPR for the Professional Responder.

Having recently completed her PhD in Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Management in May 2014, Bill and Penny began praying for a path that would lead them home now that their educational endeavors had concluded. Their children were beginning families of their own in Central New York and Bill and Penny very much wanted to be involved in their young grandchildren’s lives. A member of the American Camping Association for more than 12 years, Penny immediately shared the announcements for an Executive Director and Facilities Director at Vanderkamp with Bill. They requested that the board consider them jointly as Co-Executive Directors who would assume the responsibilities of both positions.

The opportunity to work together operating a summer camp and conference center had long been a dream for Bill and Penny that they feared they would never realize. Given their professional camp experience was related to secular camps, their only hesitation was their lack of formal theological training. Through much prayer, reflection, and conversations with clergy and Vanderkamp board members, Bill and Penny grew confident in their ability to maintain current Christian traditions at summer camp (e.g., bible exploration) and create new and exciting opportunities for Vanderkampers to grow and rejoice in our common faith in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Given Penny’s background in special event planning, they would like in the future to offer topical Christian retreats for men, women, families, and youth groups while maintaining our current rental of the facility for local Christian organizations to hold their own.

Bill and Penny believe that joining the Vanderkamp team was responding to the Lords’ Call to Service. They feel blessed for this opportunity to utilize the full range of their educational and professional experiences. For more detailed biographies on Bill and Penny, please visit the staff profiles and Fall 2014 Vanderkamp e-newsletter on our web site at

Proclaiming Hope: Outdoor Ministry

IMG_2220Best friends, exciting adventures, faith formation and leadership development are all part of outdoor ministry in Upstate New York.

Vanderkamp’s community farming project partners with area businesses to plant an acre of organic vegetables. Last year half were used in the camp kitchen and half donated to local food banks-more than 2,400 pounds of produce raised altogether-through campers and local volunteers!

Lake Chautauqua Lutheran Center partners with the Rochester Area Interfaith Hospitality Network (RAIHN-a ministry of temporary housing for homeless families) to send homeless youth to camp. Youth from RAIHN face violence, drugs, dropping out of school, and a lack of positive role models in their lives. Their camp experience can be life-changing. For example, two LCLC youth from RAIHN are now considering college.

In the Hudson-Mohawk Conference’s Confirmation camp, Luther’s Small Catechism appears atop Blue Mountain or in a kayak on Lake Pleasant as conference pastors, deacons and parents journey into the Adirondacks for an unforgettable week of instruction in the midst of God’s creation. At Senior High camp, young adults come together for a week of intense faith formation.

One former camper, now staff, writes: “I have been partaking in camp ever since the first year of Confirmation camp. I’ve met people from all different backgrounds who have shared their life events with me and I with them. I have been through a lot in my life and camp has grounded me each year, giving me a place to recharge, surrounded by a spiritual, judgment-free zone.”

Thanks to you, young people return from camp renewed in their faith, equipped with leadership skills and excited about the mission of the church.