The Board of Directors of Nature Camp, Inc. met most recently in November 2014. At that meeting, we welcomed our newest board member, Ben Rottenborn (brother of former NCI Board President, Anne Rottenborn Balto). Ben has recently returned to the Roanoke area with his family from California and stepped up to take on the Treasurer role as Mike Meads completed his term. The Board thanks Mike for his great service and looks forward to continued stewardship support from Ben. In addition, we are grateful that Kajsa Svarfvar agreed to a second term as the Financial Aid Director.
As we review the costs of running and maintaining camp, the Board carefully considers the impact of each increase in tuition. In fact, the first few years after we took responsibility for Nature Camp in 2007, we kept the tuition the same as it was ($700). Yet, as you are painfully aware in your personal lives, costs continue to grow for us, and we must raise tuition. This year, the tuition for each 2 week youth session will be $850 and the 5 day adult session in August will be $275. We keep tabs on rates charged at other residential camps and we continue to feel that we offer quite a bargain. Garden Clubs and other organizations continue to generously subsidize the cost for campers, either through scholarships they award directly or through donations to Nature Camp. We then offer tuition assistance as it is requested by campers and their families since there are many worthy campers who could not otherwise attend without assistance.
However, at our recent board meeting, a troubling trend was noted: in 2014, Nature Camp provided more tuition reduction assistance than in 2013, in terms of a total dollar amount, yet there were fewer campers attending in 2014 than in 2013. The amount of money we have not collected from campers has been increasing each year. Since our ability to defray cost is not infinite, something must change. The Nature Camp Inc. Board decided to alter the process we have been using since 2007. A pool of money has been designated from Nature Camp’s expected revenue and expenses. Financial assistance will be drawn directly from this pool. Assistance requests will be received by our Financial Aid Director, Kajsa Svarfvar; a deadline of 1 April 2015 has been set for all requests. In the month of April, a committee headed by the Financial Aid Director will review all requests to determine who will receive assistance and to designate amounts. Applicants will be notified by 1 May 2015 whether they will receive tuition reduction. In the interest of fairness, the committee will collect written requests from applicants using a very basic form, and then review all applications simultaneously. The ultimate goal of the change is the most appropriate distribution of a limited amount of assistance money. We hope this change will not deter anyone from seeking assistance who could truly benefit, and we will work to keep that from happening. Of course, there will be ongoing discussion and adjustment of the process at our board meetings. In other news, not only is Nature Camp, Inc. a federally tax exempt organization, we are now registered with the state of Virginia as a charitable organization and are now exempt from state sales tax. We hope that this will aid in our efforts to keep operating costs as low as possible and will keep the gifts we are given directed to the improvement of our programs and services. Thank you to all who give so generously of their time and resources to Nature Camp and the Nature Camp Foundation.
– Amy Gonzalez, President, Nature Camp, Inc