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Leadership Transition at The Firs

Leadership Transition at The Firs

After 36 years of being a member of The Firs staff, the last half as Executive Director, Tom Beaumont will be retiring from his service here at the end of December 2020. Tom and Mary came to The Firs in January of 1985 and since that time, Tom has served as Day Camp Director, Conference Center Director, Business Manager, Assistant Executive Director and Executive Director. The Beaumont kids (Michelle, Brian and Molly) grew up at The Firs and participated in numerous programs and summer staffs over the years. For the immediate future, Tom and Mary will remain in the neighborhood and available to support the ministry where needed, as retired staff. Tom will continue to be available to support camp ministries and camp directors on a national level, as well.

“I, and my family, have been blessed immensely over the years by being a part of the ministry here. I can’t imagine a better place to raise my family nor a better place for children, youth and adults to encounter Jesus than here at The Firs. The grounds and facilities and settings are extraordinary. The camps, conferences, programs and events have provided me with countless memories. But the people of The Firs – those I worked side-by-side with over the years and those who support what we do are what enriched my life more than anything else.”  –Tom

The Firs Board of Trustees have been working through a succession plan for over a year now that has been met with a number of challenges, not the least being that of the pandemic. The search for Tom’s replacement will continue as the new year arrives. In the meantime, the board has asked Jon Epps to expand his duties as Director of Operations to include Executive Director responsibilities, until such a time as a new director is found.

For the past two years, Jon has served as Director of Camps and Retreats, which saw him overseeing our ministries to youth at Firwood and the Chalet. With some re-structuring this fall, Jon has assumed a broader responsibility as Director of Operations. Jon and his family returned to The Firs a few years ago, having pursed an MDiv, followed by over a decade directing young adult ministries in Seattle and Bellingham. Jon is a former Firwood summer staffer with a deep passion for discipleship and team building. He will do well in this interim capacity.

A New Roof!

A New Roof!

The Firs Chalet up on Mt. Baker has a new roof and we are very excited and very grateful about the completion of this project! Normally, we wouldn’t get all wound up about a new roof but this is “kind of a big thing”. This is a very huge and expensive project (approx. $230k) funded entirely by a very generous donation during a time we would never have expected to see it done. As a result, we have a new “50-year roof” to keep this fabulous building protected for decades to come. Praise God!  Enjoy the pictures and rejoice with us.  

All Day ASA is open for fall!

All Day ASA is open for fall!

Beginning September 8th, in conjunction with the Bellingham School District online learning schedule, we are offering a full-day program for K-5th graders.

Please note that students do need to be part of the Bellingham School District. When signing up for online learning, please select “Option 1”.

Contact Kim for availability at [email protected]. Click here for more details.

Roller Coaster

Roller Coaster

Our After School Adventure Program Coordinator Dana “Burkey” shares about caring for kids during the Covid-19 crisis: When I was first approached and asked to talk about my time caring for kids at ASA over the last few months, I realized I hadn’t stopped to think about it much. What was my experience over the past 14 weeks of school closures that lead right into another summer of caring for kids? How could I help someone who was looking in from the outside understand just what that time was like? Well, as I considered the words to use and the moments to share I realized the best way to explain it all was simple. It was like a roller coaster. 

Now I know you are all thinking about a roller coasters ups and downs and how so many moments of life can be described as such. But when I say the last 16 weeks of ASA was like a roller coaster I don’t mean it in the traditional sense of the comparison. To understand we have to start at the very beginning. 

In late February and early March it was like we were standing in line, seeing as other countries and cities began boarding a coaster cart to head off into the unknown. And then, right when we were thinking about getting out of line and heading somewhere tropical to escape the ride all together, we were ushered forward and told to buckle up. It was about to be a crazy ride. 

Despite knowing it was coming, hearing that we had no school for 6 weeks was a big pill to swallow. There was not much we could do about it though, since we were moving forward towards the coasters first hill. Then, we began the ascent. Up and up we went, scrambling to make plans and begin providing child care. Did we have enough staff? Too much staff? What about lunches? Is there any hand sanitizer out there? Will we run out of toilet paper next?

The first few weeks were hard. Staff and kids alike were unsure of so many things, but knew a sudden drop was likely coming. There was fear and anxiety written on faces, but as numbers around Washington and the world climbed so did the roller coaster. Then, just when we thought we were at the top, with week 6 in sight, we were given the update: no more school all year. It became that moment when you thought the coaster was going to suddenly descend, but instead you were still climbing. Higher and higher, making you now wonder if the ride would ever end. 

But then, something magical seemed to happen. As we reached the midway point of school closures around weeks 7 and 8 we could look out and see the coaster ahead. Sure, there were parts that were hard to make out, areas we didn’t have a clear view of, and some of what we saw was even a bit daunting. Yet in all that, there were also answers. We could see the twists and turns that were summer, the loops that were our various phases, and also the end of the ride(much further in the distance than we first expected). We even had a bit of a map of the course as well, in the forms of our weekly learning menus used to keep kids engaged in class work even while away from school.

Then, before we knew it, we reached the highest point of the hill and began the sudden drop into the rest of the ride. And I won’t lie, as we raced from weeks 8 to 14 there were moments where the world felt upside down or where we wanted to throw our hands up and yell. Along with those moments though there was laughter, smiling, shouts of excitement and moments of pure joy. When we stopped to look around as we raced through the coaster we realized we had people on the ride with us who were there to help. The Bellingham School District was right beside us providing meals, school counselors, and para educators to assist our staff. Woods Coffee was also with us, giving our staff a well stocked coffee bar to help them get through all the hard days. We were all on the ride together, and as unexpected as some of the course was we were making it through. 

So yeah, there were ups and downs, but for me it was that first hill that was the hardest. Planning a staff schedule and program day around the unknown. But, we did it, and now despite hard moments every now and then we get to continue on. Continue caring for families dealing with stress and uncertainty, care for kids struggling to find a sense of normal, and even care for our staff thanks to kind gifts from the community. We’re still going too, riding the coaster and trying to get glimpses of the track ahead, hoping the end will arrive before too many more moments leave us gasping and reeling. But, looking back at all we have made it through on this course, it’s easy to see two things. 

First of all God was faithful in providing us space for kids to play, staff to serve families in need, and enough bleach and hand sanitizer to keep all the germs at bay. Second, we can take comfort in the fact that we made it through highs and lows that seemed impossible at first and are still moving forward. There may be high hills and big drops in the future, but the hope and confidence we gained in the ride we’ve taken so far keeps the fear from mounting too much. All of this may not be a ride we rush to get in line for a second time once it comes to a stop, but thanks to these last weeks and months things we face in the future will be a little more in perspective. A little easier to face. Afterall, how scary can cleaning a messy bathroom or preparing kids for a field trip be when we just got off the biggest roller coaster in the park. 

Fircreek Day Camp Kickoff!

We are off to a great start of another incredible and historic summer at Fircreek Day Camp! Games are being played, fun is being had and the serious work of Heaven is being displayed in the lives of children, parents, and young adults. God is at work in big ways and we are so thankful to serve alongside Him. Check out the Fircreek website to see how we are operating during COVID-19.

Register for Fircreek Day Camp!

Fircreek is the perfect, affordable summertime experience for children entering grades 1-6 in the fall, providing a great environment for having fun, making friends, cultivating new interests and just being kids. Spots fill quickly, so don’t wait!
REGISTER TODAY!

The Beauty of Firwood

The Beauty of Firwood

Here are a few shots of of the peace and tranquility that is Firwood. The anticipation of the upcoming summer, is something we never grow tired of. Kids have a blast at camp, and we can’t wait to meet each one! We’re believing that God will speak to each young person that gathers here, as they build community with friends and councilors, amidst His creation.

How Do Things Look Now – Part One

How Do Things Look Now – Part One

Dear Firs Family and Friends,

As we approach the month of April, in another week or so, we would usually be talking about summer staff recruitment and camper registration levels and new program ideas. We would see Spring Break on the horizon and prepare for our week long day camp program for when school is out for a week. We’d be excited about longer days and warmer temperatures and the telltale signs that summer is on its way.

Instead, we aren’t sure how many summer staff we are going to need and camper registrations have been reduced to a trickle. Spring Break is coming, but with school out a week already and five more weeks of no-school ahead – there is no such thing as a break from school. God has blessed us with a week of mostly sunshine, but instead of being happy for the coming of the summer we are happy we can be outside in a more germ-free environment and because it is lifting our spirits a bit in the midst of growing depression.

How did we get here? When is it going to end? What will things be like when it is over? Will The Firs ever be the same? How does something happen that turns schedules and gatherings and livelihoods and security upside down not just in our community and state but literally across the world? And, what is God up to in the midst of it all?

As a leader, this is where I usually trot out some good, tried and true clichés to encourage people to “hang in there.” As the leader of a Christian ministry, I have a pocket full of good verses to put on display that remind us – God is in control. Believe me, I’ve used most of them already.  But this time, with you as my witness, I’m going to do something different.

I am scrolling the calendar ahead on my computer to five months from today – August 20, 2020. On that day, I am telling myself to write “How Do Things Look Now – Part Two” and like this one, post it on our website as a Letter from Tom to you. I’m not making a prediction and there is nothing special about that date. But one thing I have learned – especially over the last few years – is that God is always at work, always brings about good in the midst of pain and over time gives us at least glimpses of what He is doing.  We’ll see then what those glimpses might look like.

I will write in-between now and then but you can hold me accountable for part two. Until then, hang in there and don’t forget God is in control.

Trusting God together,

Tom Beaumont
Executive Director

POINTS FOR PRAYER – March 2020

POINTS FOR PRAYER – March 2020

  1. Please pray for protection from illness for all of our staff and for the kids we continue to serve. The only thing operating right now at The Firs is an all-day program through our ASA. A registered nurse is screening our staff and kids and we have already lost some staff with cold symptoms. So, pray that we will have enough kid’s workers to cover those in the program.

 

  1. Pray that we will continue to be able to run this program. So far, an exemption to the “social distancing” rules have been given to all child care facilities, but you never know if that will continue. Pray that if there is room to expand care for kids in our community, that we will be able to do even more than we are doing now.

 

  1. Pray for sufficient financial provision for The Firs now and in the months to come. Guest groups are now non-existent at the Chalet and the Retreat Center. Camp registrations for the summer have dwindled down to a trickle (for now). We are monitoring our cash position closely and keeping expenses to an absolute minimum but more will be needed.

 

  1. Rumors are running rampant about what is going to happen, or might happen, or could happen on local and state levels in regards to COVID-19. These things create stress at times with our staff and can cause discouragement. Pray that actual, true information can be separated from rumor and that all can be given the perspective needed.

 

  1. Another thing that we face is the reality of how fast things change. What is true in the morning may not be true at the end of the day or the day after. This makes planning and adjusting very difficult. Pray for wisdom and patience and strength to navigate through all of this.

 

  1. Pray for the search process for the new executive director of The Firs. The search team/company retained by The Firs Board has begun the process. Pray that God will bring about the right person for the job.

 

  1. Pray that in the midst of all the concerns and fears, that we as an organization, who seek to love others, would have our eyes open to how to best do that in the current crisis. This includes parents and neighbors, as well as kids.
ASA Program Stays Open to Care for Students

ASA Program Stays Open to Care for Students

Emergency Care during School Closures

To help stop the spread of COVID-19 Schools will be closed until April 24th or later

We understand that schools also provide for many families much needed childcare. Many of you who are working to help keep our community safe may need help yourself during this time. The Firs After School Adventure (ASA), a licensed School Age Program, will be open to care for children and families during this uncertain time. At this time, space available will be for essential workers in our community and current families who are required to be at a workplace. It is our honor to serve you and assist those who are required to make it to work.  We deeply care about the health and wellness of everyone. To assure you we are taking necessary precautions, the following procedures are now in place…

  • Adults and children wash and sanitize hands upon arrival and throughout the day
  • Our dedicated staff is putting extensive effort into sanitizing and disinfecting our center, all touchable serves and toys each night.
  • Each morning at check-in, we will have a registered nurse screening staff and students  who enter the center. Any symptoms or signs of anyone who could be a carrier, or be at risk with the Coronavirus will be sent home.

Thanks to our unique facilities and building here at The Firs, we are able to keep kids in small groups throughout the day, to follow rules and advice from health officials and the CDC. We have 5 rooms available for child care, allowing us to take 10 children per space, for a total of 50 registrations at camp daily.

This is what you can expect during these All Day Adventures:

1. Hours of Operation: 7:00 AM – 6:00 PM

2. Breakfast & Lunch provided, complements of the Bellingham School District

3. Clean & Safe Environment

4. Programmed activities based around a weekly theme

5. Educational Games & Instruction (we will have teachers on-site, but don’t tell the kids!)

Cost: Emergency Care During School Closures

$40/day

$150/week

DSHS approved subsidies

Registration for non-enrolled ASA students:

REGISTRATION

 

To help us gauge the need and interest for these days off school, please email us with what days of the week you hope to have care covered.

[email protected]

Feel free to also email with any questions you may have. We will do our best to answer as quickly as possible. There will be no phone service this weekend at The Firs, so please email instead of calling.

Caring for you,

Stacy Smith, ASA Director

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