A Living Our Cause story about Peter Gove, our Property Manager
There’s a big service component at camp—it’s a matter of what we teach the campers when they’re here, but it’s also a big part of our job. That’s how I like to think about my job in maintenance. When someone is at camp and they have a problem they can always count on the maintenance staff to come and fix it. I enjoy that, I enjoy helping people. And, I love my job.
I didn’t always start off working in maintenance; I came to Camp Jewell from South Africa in 2003 as a Ranch counselor. My brother Grant had come over the summer before and based on what he’d said I wanted to give it a go. I thought I had an idea of what I was getting myself into, but I wouldn’t have guessed my stay would run more than a decade, that I’d find my career path, and that I’d meet my future wife, Jodi, here.
We have summer camps in South Africa and I had worked at two of them before coming to Jewell. It was there that I learned about horseback riding, surfing, breakdancing, working with kids, and even fire poi-it’s been awhile, but I can still do it, it’s kind of like riding a bike. Grant, my sister, and I all worked at one of the camps together. One of the coolest experiences I had there was seeing Grant in a different light. He’d always been a really likeable guy, but also a bit proper. So to see him crawling on the ground with a group of kids pretending to be a bug was funny, it showed me a different side of him. Camp often brings out different sides of people, perhaps sometimes sides we didn’t even realize we had.
That’s a bit of what happened for me here. After working three summers at Ranch camp, the last as a CIT counselor there, Jodi and I got married. I considered a job working for a tiling company where I would have trained to become a skilled laborer, but I wasn’t sure that’s what I wanted to do and though I was looking for a change I knew the camp bug hadn’t left me. Ray suggested I talk to Mario, the property manager at the time, so I did and Mario offered me a job in maintenance. Immediately it felt like the perfect fit. It was the best of both worlds: I got to work with my hands and learn new skills, and I got to work at camp.
Mario was a great teacher. At that time he had already been at Jewell for 20 years; he knew so much and he was very patient. I didn’t have any official maintenance training prior to working for him, but he taught me a little bit of everything so I had the tools to do the job. I’m grateful for that and I’ll always consider him a good friend.
What I like about working in maintenance is that I get to build things but also that I get to serve the people who come to camp. Knowing that I can be there to help people and make their stay more comfortable and enjoyable—even when there’s a problem in their cabin in the middle of the night— is a cool feeling. I like to think of myself as not-your-typical-maintenance-guy. I want to be approachable and I want people to know they can come to me for help with anything. I also hope to show kids it can be cool to work in maintenance, to build things, to work with tools, and to operate machinery. We do a lot of hard work, but we have a lot of fun as well.
The kid I’m most excited to teach about the inner workings of camp’s maintenance department is my own. Jodi and I are expecting our first child in late June (I’ve taken to referring to him as Batman, but I promise that won’t be his given name). I can’t wait to show him all the awesome stuff we do, to teach him the value of hard work, to ride on the tractor with him, and to instill in him that jobs requiring manual labor are just as important as other jobs. I have a passion for maintenance and I’m really looking forward to sharing it with him.