The Camp Jefferson Summer Day Camp operated by the Jefferson Township Recreation Department is celebrating its 14th summer this year. Recreation Department Director Grace C. Rhinesmith, Camp Directors Terri McCarney and Terry Koontz, Camp Nurse Sharon Messerle, R.N. and Recreation Program Coordinator Carol Punturieri have been running the program since it began and are excited that this year, the transition was finally made to online registration. The staff could never forget that Jefferson resident Christine Stack was so very instrumental in the initial years of the summer day camp as a Camp Director up until she relocated out of state a few years ago.
The program was conceived and born in a tiny office at the Jefferson Township Municipal Building where camp directors Rhinesmith, McCarney, Koontz, and Stack set up the camp programs, interviewed and hired their staff comprised of high school and college students as well as teachers and other adults, and Messerle set up a nurse’s station. They ordered supplies, opened registration, and operated the camp program five miles up Weldon Road at the Township of Jefferson’s newly acquired 94-acre property known as Camp Jefferson located at 81 Weldon Road in Lake Hopatcong.
That initial year was the year everyone remembered well as the school district buildings were undergoing major construction and reconstruction and summer break was 11 weeks long! Punturieri with then college students Rachael Koontz and Vicki DeLoreto as seasonal office assistants worked out of that little office, taking over the hallway and the all purpose room, using Excel worksheets and whatever else was at their disposal, to handle the administrative end of that first summer day camp program.
Since then, with the support of Mayor Russ Felter, the Township Administrator James Leach, past and present Township Council members, past and present crew members of both the Recreation Department and Department of Public Works and many others, the summer day camp program has evolved to what it is today.
The Jefferson Township Recreation Department office was moved onsite to Camp Jefferson to the caretaker’s building that existed back when the camp was owned by Camp Ranger and then the Boys and Girls Club of Clifton. It was renovated into a functional office under the guidance of then Recreation and Parks Superintendent Roland Sparling and his crew.
The Recreation Department purchased a school bus with the help of the Board of Education and converted it to its very own camp bus with driver Carol Newman at the wheel. That bright blue bus with children’s hand prints in bright colors serves the camp well.
The Recreation Department crew more recently under the supervision of Director of Parks and Fields John Burns continue to maintain the many buildings and the vast grounds that comprise the present day Camp Jefferson facility.
Camp counselors (many of whom were once campers themselves), assistant camp directors, camp specialists, seasonal office staff, and so many people have helped over the years to make the program successful and many have come and gone but left their mark on the program.
Today, the Camp Jefferson Summer Day Camp is thriving having served thousands of children over the past 13 years with some 650 children over the summer of 2016 alone and employing hundreds of individuals over the years. It continues to serve not only Jefferson Township children but children from surrounding communities whose parents/guardians are seeking a safe, reliable, exciting, and reasonably priced summer experience for their child in a natural outdoor environment.
Now, in 2017 with a full staff of specialists, before and after care staff, and head/senior/junior counselors hired and getting ready for orientation and training, before and after care programs in place, on-site entertainment and activities planned, off-site trips booked, electives planned, two well attended open houses, food vendors in place, busing organized, and registration well under way, everyone involved is gearing up for another exciting summer with Rhinesmith, McCarney, Koontz, Messerle, and Punturieri still working together.
The program currently accepts pre-Kindergarten children ages 3 to 4 who are potty trained, and children entering Kindergarten through 8th grade this fall for a 3-day or 5-day program running from 9am to 3pm for eight weeks beginning on June 26 and ending on August 18 with options for morning only busing (from Milton/Oak Ridge only), sports clinics, electives, lunches, before and/or after care, and off-site trips. An Early Bird special tuition discount program expires on May 3 and then a Two Tuesdays Before registration process continues at regular camp tuition prices.
For more information, log on to www.jeffersontownship.net and click on the link on the left side of the home page “Camp Jefferson Summer Day Camp” or register online at https://register.communitypass.net/reg/index.cfm or call 973-663-8404 x 4 or 5.