With the change of season’s camps have kicked into gear, but winter has done it's damage. Your camp might be already be busy with rental groups, staff training, and preparing summer programming all while desperately searching for time and man-power to tackle that spring maintenance. Whether you need bush cleared, firewood chopped, lawns mowed, fences mended or buildings painted organizing a ‘work bee’ is a great way to engage your camp connections, have fun and get all this work done before camp begins.
The term ‘work bee’ was derived from the idea of worker bees. Bees themselves are known to be social creatures that live in colonies (much like staff dorms or camp cabins). Much like camp staff bees each have their role within the organization, are hard working and most importantly work as a team to achieve greater goals.
They work hard all summer to produce enough food to survive the winter...just like camp people work hard all summer to provide an amazing camp experience for children and youth. If you study a functional hive you’ll discover there is a lot of activity and all of it is going to the good of the whole community (camp). No one bee exclusively profits and gains from the activity (because camps love volunteers!) but the whole hive (camp) is strengthened and made better by their work. It’s a win-win scenario, really.
When camps need jobs to get done, particularly with spring cleaning and maintenance, they organize their worker bees and have a work bee. An event that is abuzz with activity, togetherness, and satisfaction of a hard task complete, and done well.
There are more benefits to camps and their community of volunteers than just finally getting those jobs done. Organizing work bee events allows your camp community to experience a time of working together, sharing, re-uniting and building friendships. The opportunity to invest time and hard work in a social setting has many rewards to both the individual and the camp. It’s authentic and very beneficial to all.
Planning a Work Bee
Organize a list of jobs that need to be done. Make sure there are jobs on that list that anyone can do like cleaning and general grounds maintenance, as well as jobs that would require people with specific skills or equipment like specific renovation jobs, chain sawing, etc.
Invite your worker bees! Send an email and newsletter to your contacts inviting them to attend the work bee. Invite your regular volunteers, camp staff and alumni, Board of Directors and members of your community. You can also post events on social media and phone your contacts.
Feed your worker bees! People love to attend these events because it gives them an opportunity to connect with the camp, old friends, camp staff and the community. They also love to be rewarded for donating their time with hearty camp meals. It’s amazing how people are motivated with good food, especially when it’s free.
Provide the necessary equipment to complete the jobs you need done. Wood splitters, chain saws, lawn mowers, paint and brushes, hammers and nails, cleaning supplies...anything your volunteers will need to complete the tasks. If you need people to BRING their own equipment, or additional equipment, be sure to ask them to do so in your invitation.
In the morning of your work bee, access the skills and abilities of the volunteers in attendance and assign them jobs. “This group will paint the fences, this group will haul firewood, and this group can help out in the kitchen.” It will be more successful if people are well organized.
Say thank you. During the free meal(s) you are providing make sure you personally extend your gratitude to the group of volunteers. If you can, follow up with a thank you email, phone call, or even card to let them know how much you appreciated their help. When people feel appreciated they are more likely to help again in the future.
Have fun! It’s amazing how easy work can seem when you are having a good time. Even though you are getting down to some really hard work, make sure the mood is light, thankful and full of good humour. It is easy for camp people to have a good time – make sure there is a lot of laughter!