No Camp Barney, JCC Plans Day Camps for Late June

No Camp Barney, JCC Plans Day Camps for Late June

Having closed in March to prevent spread of COVID-19, the JCC will reopen with enhanced health and safety protocols.

Dave Schechter is a veteran journalist whose career includes writing and producing reports from Israel and elsewhere in the Middle East.

Camp Barney Medintz
Camp Barney Medintz

The highlights from Friday’s “Dear MJCCA Family” email from Jared Powers, CEO of the Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta:

The JCC will begin reopening June 1. “The first stage is likely to include fitness, limited group exercise, tennis, and access to recreational areas on our campus. Our outdoor pools will not be open on June 1, but we are hoping to be able to open them shortly thereafter. Our indoor pool will open in a later stage,” Powers said.

“With deep sadness,” Camp Barney Medintz will not open for 2020. “We waited as long as we could to make a decision based on the safety of our camp community. We are heartbroken, as I know so many of you reading this will be too,” Powers said.

Summer day camps and preschool camps at Zaban Park “tentatively” plan to start in late June.

Jared Powers, CEO of the Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta, announced “with great sadness” that Camp Barney Medintz would not open this summer.

The JCC, which interacts with an estimated 60,000 people annually, closed its doors March 13 as a precaution against spread of COVID-19.

Powers said that when it reopens “the JCC experience on June 1 will be different than what you are accustomed to. The COVID-19 pandemic has required us to raise our demanding standards to an even higher level with new protocols for the current circumstances, such as physical distancing, health screening, enhanced sanitizing, and installation of UV light in our HVAC systems.”

An amended executive order issued May 12 by Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp included guidelines to permit the opening of day camps, but not overnight camps. “We have developed strict criteria so that these camps can start planning now to reopen with safeguards in place,” Kemp said. “We are hearing that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will issue guidance soon. When that happens, their guidance will control, but until that time, we will put out guardrails so people can make plans.”

Gov. Brian Kemp announced May 12 that under “strict criteria” day camps would be able to open but that overnight camps would not.

“Camp Barney” has operated since 1963 and covers 540 acres in the north Georgia mountains near Cleveland, Ga. The camp annually attracts more than 1,200 boys and girls, ages 8 to 16, from throughout the southeastern United States and beyond. According to its website, the cost of a two-week session begins at $3,170 for MJCCA members – slightly higher for out-of-town JCC members or non-members – and a four-week session begins at $4,865 depending on age and slightly higher for out-of-town or non-members.

Camp Barney families will be offered the options of receiving a refund, rolling the fees over to summer 2021, or reallocating to make a donation. Similar options were offered by Camp Coleman and Ramah Darom when they canceled their summer overnight camps last month.

Since the closure, a variety of JCC programming has migrated online, including preschool and day camp programs, the Lisa F. Brill Institute for Jewish Learning, the Book Festival of the JCC, BBYO, and services with Rabbi Brian Glusman.

The anticipated loss of program fees and membership revenue forced the JCC to lay off or furlough more than half of its staff, according to an email Powers sent March 23 to the “MJCCA Family.” The JCC has not provided a figure for the number of employees laid off or furloughed, nor for its total number of employees before the facility closed.

Located in the North Georgia mountains, near Cleveland, Ga., “Camp Barney” annually attracts more than 1,200 boys and girls, ages 8 to 16, from throughout the southeastern United States and beyond.

In the first round of grants made from the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta’s COVID-19 emergency fund, the JCC received two allocations: $102,000 to fund three months of health insurance for furloughed workers and $32,000 to do the same for laid off workers.

In the March 23 notice, Powers said, “We have had to make necessary, though very difficult, decisions to ensure the long-term future of the Marcus JCC. . . . This very difficult decision is what will allow us to serve the community again in transformative ways when we are able to reopen.”

Summer camp programs generate more than half of the MJCCA’s revenues. According to the MJCCA’s tax return for the fiscal year that ended in August 2018, the most recent available online, 80 percent of its $24.6 million revenue came from “program service revenue,” while 57 percent of its nearly $24.8 million in expenses was “salaries, other compensation, employee benefits.”

The JCC is stepping up its fundraising efforts. “Please consider a meaningful gift to help us open strong and continue to provide the programming – in person or virtual – that you have come to rely on,” Powers said in his May 15 email.

The JCC’s annual meeting, at 7 p.m. May 27, will be conducted on the Zoom videoconferencing platform. Powers said the meeting would “update our community on the MJCCA’s pathway forward.”

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