Like other community groups in Rocky View County, Camp Chestermere is in a holding pattern as the non-profit organization determines its next course of action regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.
Located on the southeast shore of Lake Chestermere, the camp provides recreational opportunities and weekend programming for local youth, including summer camps and field trips, as well as facility rentals for events like banquets, weddings and other celebrations.
“Having the schools closed, that’s the one that really affects us, because it basically takes away our entire customer basis,” said director Shannon Dean. “With all the schools closing, and all the cancelled field trips, that’s a huge impact on us as a business, and also as a rec provider, because we’re now officially closed.”
According to Dean, Camp Chestermere serves roughly 3,000 youths per year. The organization’s flagship events are its annual summer camps, which are attended by more than 1,600 kids.
With government directives to close schools and ban groups of 50 or more people, Camp Chestermere has been hit hard by the ongoing pandemic. The camp officially announced its closure March 13, stating its year-round staff members would be developing short, medium and long-term plans for the organization. According to the announcement, Camp Chestermere will provide an update by March 31.
Dean said all seven full-time staff members are still employed as of March 19, but the camp is “reassessing that on an ongoing basis.”
“I’d say we’re uncertain, and we’ll be looking into the programs released by the government to hopefully be able to survive over the next few months,” he said. “We’re looking into specifics as they’re being released. If it’s going to work, I don’t know at this time, but I’d say the announcements sounded encouraging.
“Every business is in this spot. Every business is thinking, ‘Oh my goodness, how do we survive?’ On top of that, there’s another challenge because we’re an NPO, as well.”
Camp Chestermere was established in 1937 and is one of the city’s oldest non-profits.
“We’ve been in the community for over 80 years now,” Dean said. “The city was basically built around us, so when we started, there was literally nothing here.
“We’ve been in existence for 80 years, and one pandemic [wipes us out]? That’s the reality we’re facing right now.”
As Camp Chestermere is a non-profit, Dean said donations are one way to continue supporting the organization financially. Donations may be submitted at campchestermere.com/with-funds
At this time, Shannon said, Camp Chestermere is still operating under the assumption its 2020 summer camp, slated for the first week of July, will be able to proceed. However, he added, this information will be updated as per the ongoing announcements from Alberta Health Services.
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