Lisa Hirle is our Hide-A-Way Dining Services Manager, but equally important is her unofficial title of “camp cookie lady.” She bakes all kinds of cookies—the flavor depends primarily on what she has on hand at any given time—and they’re a sweet treat for whoever is lucky enough to get to eat them. But they also serve as a way to bring more kids to camp. That’s because she doesn’t give them away, instead she raffles them off to kids and families at camp through the year, with the proceeds going to Project 236, our Annual Strong Kids Campaign that brings 236 kids to camp regardless of their ability to pay. As a result, Lisa has raised more than $20,000 towards this initiative over the past few years.
After several years of owning a car dealership and repair shop in Collinsville, Lisa closed its doors in 2004. She found out about a part-time job opening in the camp kitchen from her Colebrook neighbor Sally Parris, who worked here at the time, and she pursued it. She’d known about camp for years; she came in the 1960s as part of an outdoor education program with her school, and spent some time here in the 1980s. In the 1990s her son came as a camper. In 2007 she transitioned to a full-time employee and last year became the Hide-A-Way Dining Services Manager.
As the person responsible for all facets of food service at Hide-A-Way, Lisa comes in early and works long hours; she smiles when she says she never misses a sunrise at camp. Though you can’t dispute that the scenic backdrop at Hide-A-Way is amazing, her real inspiration comes from the people at camp. She does this job because she loves the staff and the kids, as they inspire, amuse, and amaze her, and she truly believes that for children, camp is a magical place.
Smaller groups are hosted at Hide-A-Way throughout the year those in the main camp area, and it is home to the Ranch program during the summer, so Lisa has a chance to really get to know the kids and families who stay there. She makes it a point to interact with them, offers challenges to them, and plans special meals for them including an outdoor dinner each summer Ranch session. She even offers a horse treat-making class for campers on rainy days.
She makes a point of getting to know the international staff here, appreciating what she learns from their customs and perspective. She values the diversity that exists at camp because our staff and campers come from diverse racial, ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds, and she insists that developing respect comes from understanding people who are different from one another. That’s why she’s so passionate about Project 236; that we can bring kids to camp from many different walks of life is what balances our camp community.
So next time you’re at camp, bring a little extra cash with you for some raffle tickets. The tickets you buy will benefit a good cause, and the more you buy the more likely your chances of being able to share a plate of Lisa’s homemade cookies with your camp friends.