To Ivan Dedric, a new counselor at the camp and a business management student fromCroatia, working at the camp was an opportunity to gain experience with a new country and polish his English language skills as well as help seniors.
Algonquin camp's activities keep bringing seniors back
BY UMA SHYAMALA DIXIT
An evening of music and dancing culminated in crowning Sarah and William Brown Senior Prom King and Queen at this year's Senior Camp.
Sarah Brown, 82, and William Brown, 81, have been married 55 years and said they attend the camp regularly because they "enjoyed the people."
Participants describe the camp experience as a safe place where seniors can meet new people and make friends while enjoying a variety of activities ranging from fishing and swimming to singing, creative writing and crafts. This year's camp was held June 23-27.
All the activities take place at Camp Algonquin, a 116-acre wooded site along the Fox River on Cary Road.
Senior Camp is a program organized by the Metropolitan Family Services of Chicago for low-income seniors ranging in ages from 60-84. The camp has been attracting seniors from around the Chicago area since it opened in 1961.
"We have 65 seniors here supervised by staff members and counselors who are mostly college students specializing in fields like recreation, education and social work," explained Penelope Friedberg, director of community relations and marketing for Camp Algonquin.
"Admission is free to all seniors who have a public aid medical card, and those who don't are charged a flat fee of $50 for the five days," she added.
Mark and Anna Levine, who are originally from St. Petersburg, Russia, attended the camp for the third time. To the Levines, Senior Camp is one of the charms of living in America, a country they appreciate for its atmosphere.
"God Bless America," said Mrs. Levine, seconded by her husband, as they relaxed on the shady back porch of one of the buildings housing the dormitories used by campers.
"We enjoy this camp very much, and were disappointed when we called and were told that the place was full (this summer)," she said. "Finally, we were able to come because two of our friends dropped out. We have many friends here. The food is great, and we love spending time in the pool."
People come to the camp mostly by word of mouth, Friedberg said. "We admit people on a first-come, first-serve basis."
For Jean Rose, the best thing about camp is the opportunity to be outdoors, the food, the staff, prom night, and time away from her husband.
"A little time off is nice every once in a while," she said with a smile.
Nolia Powell said about her first time at the camp: "I live alone and have a homemaker come in because I am not able to do much myself. This is a really nice change."
Barbara Braun, a counselor at the camp, said, "I love the fact that I am able to make a lot of friends, and also am be to learn a lot from the seniors." She has a bachelor's degree in human development and family studies, and come fall, will start working on a master's degree in social work at the University of Chicago. "This is my third time here," she said about working as a camp counselor.
To Ivan Dedric, a new counselor at the camp and a business management student from Croatia, working at the camp was an opportunity to gain experience with a new country and polish his English language skills as well as help seniors.
The camp tries to attract a cosmopolitan population, making the experience as rewarding and as eclectic as possible for everybody. Richard A. Morris, camp coordinator, said Camp Algonquin benefits from the services of Camp America and Camp Counselors, agencies which recruit individuals from over the world interested in working in American camps.
"Senior Camp is a particularly special experience for the staff, and a very powerful experience for campers," Friedberg said. "Special for us because we benefit from the wisdom of campers, and empowering for them because, among other things, they feel like they are part of a community."
Camp Algonquin organizes various camps all summer long. For more information on Senior Camp and on other programs offered by Camp Algonquin, call (847) 658-8212 or visit Camp Algonquin's Web site at www.campalgonquin.org.
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