Comeca Camp & Retreat Center staff are busily preparing for the youth camp season which is just around the corner. While youth summer camps account for a big portion of the activities at the camp, there are lots of other things happening throughout the year at Comeca.
Family reunions, conferences, board retreats and a host of many other events keep the staff hopping to provide a warm and welcoming experience for their guests. It takes several staff members to organize and accommodate the busy schedule, and according to camp Executive Director Justin Hoehner, for the first time in a long time the camp is fully staffed heading into the busy season.
A few weeks ago we introduced you to three new members of the Comeca team - Sara Widick, Kenzie Schaben and Sarah Cunningham. This week we introduce two new team members whose job it is to make sure guests have a memorable experience that keeps them coming back to Comeca.
In fact, that is such an integral part of Brent Gibson’s position that it is part of his title - Guest Experience Director. “My primary focus is to work with all of the rental groups that come to the camp,” Gibson shared.
Gibson and his wife relocated to Comeca from Rochester, Indiana last month, and he said a job in camp ministry is something completely new for him. He did not attend church or youth camps in his childhood and was first introduced to camp as a sophomore in high school, when he worked as a lifeguard at a large camp in Indiana.
“I fell in love with camp, and the following summer, in 1988, I went back to camp again. That’s where I met my wife Shelly,” Gibson said. “She worked in the kitchen and I was a lifeguard. We were a summer romance, and in June it will be 32 years.”
Three years after meeting Brent and Shelly were married at that camp. They started a family, and when their oldest daughter got old enough to go to camp Gibson started taking the youth group. He continued that for 14 years.
“In 2006, God put a calling on my heart for full-time camp ministry, and ever since then I have been volunteering at our camp,” he said. “About two months ago God told me it was time, so I began applying to camps all over the country. Justin saw something in me and reached out, and we had about an hour long conversation during which it became very clear to me that this is where we should be. So we drove 12 hours on a Friday, spent all day Saturday at the camp, and drove 12 hours home on Sunday.”
Though he and his wife visited other camps, Gibson said they both knew right away that Comeca was where they were supposed to be. “We are super excited for the opportunity, but we are also scared to death. We are literally relocating from a community and a church that we have been at for 24 years, and starting all over again at this point in my life is a little scary,” Gibson said. “But if I wasn’t a little nervous and scared I wouldn’t want to do it, because that would mean it wasn’t a God thing. I ran from this calling for about 10 years out of fear, but I didn’t want to be one of those guys who wakes up at 75 and says ‘what if’ or ‘I should have’.”
While three of the five new staff members at Comeca have relocated from other states, the new culinary director has called Gothenburg home for a number of years. North Platte native Kenny Johnston relocated to Gothenburg in 1998, shortly after graduating from high school. He began working in the food service industry at Pizza Hut and McDonalds, before becoming the chef at Stone Hearth Estates, where he worked for nine years.
Johnston said for a little over a year he also worked on his days off from Stone Hearth at Walker’s Steak House to gain as much cooking experience as he could.
On April 17, Johnston began his new job at Comeca Camp & Retreat Center. “I was looking for a cooking position and Comeca kept popping up. I actually thought I was applying for kitchen manager, and before I even made it out here I found I had really applied for the culinary director position,” he laughed. “It was time for a move and for a change.”
Both Gibson and Johnston reside at the camp. Johnston said the positive atmosphere at the camp has been a welcomed change for him. The environment between the retirement community he last served and the camp is quite different, and Johnston said he is now serving a wider variety of people.
“In the summer it is a lot of kids, but the rest of the time we have all kinds of group that come in. We just had a quilting group here,” he said.
Both men said they are looking forward to getting campers there and seeing the season in full swing. “It will be fun,” said Johnston.