The Story of Friends of Camp Whitsett

The Friends of Camp Whitsett, born as the Whitsett Alumni Association, was created to bring together Staff and Campers who had attended Camp Whitsett, in an organization to promote and raise money for the camp. Over the years of the organization’s existence, over $30,000 has been raised for Camp Whitsett. Some of our projects are the funding of half of the new Campfire Circle (named in honor of long-time staff member, Chuck Smith), an up-to-date Weather station, TV & VCR, and research materials for the Nature area, money for the carpeting on the docks and a Sailboat for Aquatics, tools and a kiln for the Handicraft Area, a Skeet Target Launcher for Shotgun, mountain bikes for High Adventure, dutch ovens, staff lounge furnishings, equipment for other camp areas, a contribution to build new tent platforms, as well as time and efforts given by individual members (especially Chandy Russell) to special Whitsett Projects.


The idea for the Friends of Camp Whitsett came about as far back as 1994, when Steve (Putnam) Lombard, a Camp Whitsett Staff alumnus, worked as Business Manager for the summer at Whitsett’s sister camp, Emerald Bay, on Catalina Island. Steve made note of the high level of dedication and involvement of Emerald Bay Staff alumni, through their volunteer organization, Emerald Bay Alumni (EBA).


Steve brought up the idea of forming a similar Whitsett organization to Jeff Feldman, another Camp Whitsett Staff alumnus. Together they took the idea to Jon Mackenzie at the Western Los Angeles County Council.


As the genesis of what was to become the Camp Whitsett Alumni Association (CWAA) began in 1995, so too did planning for Camp Whitsett’s 50th Anniversary Grand Reunion, which took place in 1996. Over 360 former staff and their families attended this amazing experience, which brought together staff from the ‘50s, ‘60s, ‘70s, ‘80s, and ‘90s. The weekend was filled with tours of camp, the reminiscing of camp experiences, great meals, with speeches by Council and Camp administration, and a greeting by Myrtle Harris – Grand Daughter of our founder, W. P. Whitsett and also the granddaughter of Guy F. Atkinson, the designer and builder of the Lake Ida Dam. Chuck Smith, the longest-term staff member, welcomed everyone to this great event. The evening culminated in a Super Campfire program, bringing together talent from almost 50 years.


Pictures were taken of the various years of staff: Photos of the Staff from each Decade; Photos of all the Program Directors; Photos of all the Camp Directors; and various photos of some areas. [by the way – we’re looking for copies of those photos and any others to post on our website]. The weekend was such a huge success that plans had been made for a “Reunion” to be held every year. Attendance in subsequent years has not been nearly as successful as the first year, but former staff and campers have had the opportunity to witness Whitsett growth, first hand.


The formation of CWAA was announced at the Grand Reunion, but wasn’t fully realized until 2000, when formal bylaws were adopted, and a Board of Directors selected. At that time, the association was registered as a charitable non-profit association with the State of California. The original officers were: Jeff Feldman-President, Alan Rosen-Vice President, Steve Putnam-Treasurer, Jon Mackenzie-Secretary, and Adam Lombard-Historian, as well as Board Members Bob Hawkins, Hoss McNutt, Chandy Russell, and Chuck Smith.


Eventually, the Board reached its full capacity of 5 officers and 6 Directors, including one Director appointed as a representative of the Scout Executive of the Western Los Angeles County Council. All positions on the Board, with the exception of the appointed Director, serve simultaneous 2-year terms. The current board consists of: Chuck Smith-President, Clif Stewart-Vice President, Greg Lewis-Secretary, Dan Doggett-Treasurer, and Erik Godfrey-Historian. Jeff Feldman, Ron Fordis, Bob Gaby, Steve Lombard, Andrew Sisolak, and Lee Harrison (appointed to the Board by the Scout Executive), serve as Directors at Large, with the special assistance of Dave Larson, and long-time Whitsett Alumnus Chandy Russell.


In 2006, a proposal was set forth to change the name of the association to Friends of Camp Whitsett, to better reflect the diversity of its membership, and encourage non-Staff alumni to become members. “Alumni Association” seemed to limit membership to only Staff Alumni (those who actually worked at Camp), whereas, the organization was open to ALL: Staff Alumni, Camper Alumni, as well as just “Friends”. This change was passed unanimously by the membership in 2007, and the “Alumni Association” was reborn as the Friends of Camp Whitsett – or the FoCW.


A Strategic Planning Meeting was held in April 2010 to plan for a reorganization and an update in the direction and growth of the FoCW. The meeting resulted in the new Mission Statement: “To identify, develop and harness people’s time, talent and treasure for the benefit of Camp Whitsett”, and a clarification of the eight objectives of the organization. Proposals were made for the establishment of committees to help with the ongoing objectives and the eventual growth of the Friends of Camp Whitsett, along with new ideas to get our name and activities to more people.


The Summer 2011 Family Weekend was a huge success, with over $7,000 taken in which is earmarked for improvement for the Waterfront. Included in the improvements are: Rebuilding of the fence, Rebuilding of the Pergola (the shade structure and covering on the dock), Rebuilding of the PFD and Boat Racks, Construction of a new Lookout Tower [actually a project of the Sam Lawrence Memorial Fund].


The Friends of Camp Whitsett organization includes all of you: anyone who has an interest in what is happening at Whitsett. If you haven’t yet done so, become a part of this organization by contacting our Board President through our Camp Whitsett eMails, or as mailed directly to our P.O. box. As Uncle Sam said during WWII: WE WANT YOU!!