Every year, a New Jersey church sends a large group of youth and adults to The Carpenter’s Boat Shop in Pemaquid to serve the local community – a “work camp” that has become a formative experience for generations and developed lasting connections between the two communities.
This year, close to 70 high school students and adults from the Basking Ridge Presbyterian Church made the drive up the coast. Youth, parents, and advisers are spending nine days doing community service with CHIP Inc., the Community Housing Improvement Project. The group will work at 17 sites in the community, building wheelchair ramps and decks, skirting trailers, painting, and doing interior work.
The boat shop is also the place where youth will take their first bath in a lake and sleep on floors.
Advisers from the Basking Ridge group reflect on their first summer at the boat shop with starry eyes.
“There’s something magical up here,” said Erin Folley, a parent and former camper. “If it’s not life-changing, it’s a highly positive, influential experience that is unique to our church and the boat shop.”
When Ruth Ives founded CHIP in 1984 as a nondenominational effort to help local residents in need of home repairs, members of Basking Ridge Presbyterian Church organized a work camp. The Rev. Bobby Ives, founder of The Carpenter’s Boat Shop, invited the work camp to stay at the boat shop.
Opportunities for service while staying at The Carpenter’s Boat Shop are extensive and varied.
Campers will work alongside apprentices shingling the boat shop’s chapel, repainting the wheelchair ramp to the shop, or baking blueberry muffins for all to enjoy at tea break.
Much of the work camp experience is about being part of a community, a lesson The Carpenter’s Boat Shop emphasizes.
While one group of campers spends the day at the boat shop, preparing meals and working alongside apprentices, seven other groups work on projects around the community. The daily rotation of groups and work sites continues throughout the nine days.
The 17 work sites include private homes and nonprofit organizations.
Every year, the group volunteers at the Damariscotta Mills Fish Ladder and at multiple sites in Bristol: the Old Rock Schoolhouse, Pemaquid Point Lighthouse Park, and the boat shop.
This year, the group will volunteer at Coastal Kids Preschool, where they will work with the children and make repairs to the playground. They will also visit assisted-living and nursing homes.
Lisa Conway, executive director of Coastal Kids Preschool and president of the board of directors at The Carpenter’s Boat Shop, was a camper during her freshman year. Now she coordinates the work sites and organizes volunteer projects at Coastal Kids.
“This week I’ve seen my worlds collide with the little preschool and the boat shop,” said Conway. “It’s remarkable to watch the kids grow from helping others and working on carpentry projects.”
While the Basking Ridge group comes from a Christian church, they welcome anyone in the Basking Ridge community to serve.
“Anyone can come to care and love for the community,” said Cathi Reckenbeil, the church’s youth director.
When Tom Limongello joined the work camp in high school, he fell in love with the boat shop and said he developed a “special bond with the community.” Not knowing he would become a boat-builder, Limongello returned to the boat shop for a nine-month apprenticeship. He is volunteering with the Basking Ridge group this week.
“The boat shop and the work camp offer a unique space to disconnect from the outside world,” said Limongello.
The tradition of Basking Ridge campers returning to the boat shop runs strong. Parents and advisers return with a new generation of campers that, they say, will experience something extraordinary.
The Basking Ridge youth camp will be in the Lincoln County community and at The Carpenter’s Boat Shop until Saturday, July 20.
The Carpenter’s Boat Shop encourages visitors to stop by for tea break any weekday at 10 a.m., to chat with the campers and enjoy baked goods. The Carpenter’s Boat Shop is at 440 Old County Road in Pemaquid.