Duo donate time to run YMCA programs

Published 10:27 am Friday, July 10, 2015

COOLING OFF: Campers and counsellors swim in Lake John Guider in 2014 at Warner-Tully Memorial YMCA Camp.

COOLING OFF: Campers and counsellors swim in Lake John Guider in 2014 at Warner-Tully Memorial YMCA Camp.

Allison East and Millie Wolfe have given a huge portion of their lives to the Vicksburg YMCA, especially to the Warner-Tully Camp located in Port Gibson.

“I do it to give kids those opportunities that I had,” East said. “It’s a great place to be yourself, to learn new skills and to make new friends, and I think that every kid deserves that.”

East has been attending camp for 17 years. It started when she was a camper at age 5, then she became a counselor at age 15 and straight out of college at 22 she took the programs director job at the YMCA.

Email newsletter signup

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletters

Check which newsletters you would like to receive
  • Vicksburg News: Sent daily at 5 am
  • Vicksburg Sports: Sent daily at 10 am
  • Vicksburg Living: Sent on 15th of each month

“I do it because it’s so near and dear to me, and I just made so many friends here so I know what it can do for kids,” East said.

East hires and trains the staff of counselors, in addition to coming up with all the activities the campers participate in during their time at camp. Wolfe said because East is in tune with what the kids like she is able to create programming that keeps them entertained.

“She’s very energetic, she’s very vivacious,” Wolfe said. “She’s the one that keeps things going.”

Each week at camp there is a theme to the campers programs. This week they are doing “Around the World,” and each cabin is a different country.

“She’s planned lots of fun activities that go along with the themes,” Wolfe said.

Thursday was theme day and instead of structured activities like archery and canoeing, they had stations set up with activities from different countries. They played games in South Africa, did an art project in Italy, threw boomerangs in Australia and made paper dragons in China. Next week’s theme is Harry Potter.

East loves watching the kids fall in love with the camp. When the campers tell her they enjoyed themselves and can’t wait to come back next year, she knows all her hard work was worth it.

Wolfe, director of camping and childcare, is a native of Port Gibson. Her mother was born on the Warner-Tully property before her family sold it to Anderson Tully who later donated it to the YMCA for a camp.

“My roots are deep at Warner-Tully,” Wolfe said.

For 10 years Wolfe was part-time at the YMCA, but she left her teaching job to take a full time position about a year ago. Wolfe said she was a teacher with a lot of concern and not a lot of influence. Now at the YMCA, she said she has a lot of influence and little concern. Being able to share her Christian faith with children has made her feel like she is in the right place.

“I feel like I’m where I’m suppose to be,” Wolfe said. “When I was teaching I felt like something was missing, and I think that was the idea of not being able to share my faith.”

The morning and night devotionals are some of her favorite moments along with getting to be outdoors most of the day. Wolfe also has a soft spot for homesick kids because she was one herself.

“I was one of those homesick kids that hated camp,” Wolfe said.

East said Wolfe was one of her teachers when she was in school and her passion for the camp is what makes her great at her job.

“She has relationships with a lot of these kids from her experiences as a teacher in Vicksburg,” East said. “She taught me when I was in gifted in fifth and sixth grade. She knows a lot of these kids, and she really loves to be out here for them.”

According to East, Wolfe likes to work with her hands and is always up for fixing anything that’s broken. She fishes with kids and she has snakes in a tank that they use as an educational tool.

Wolfe orders the food, coordinates with the nurses and she drives to town to get supplies. Her responsibilities are mainly administrative, but she also works with the summer day camp at the W.K. Purks Center and Wilkinson Ver Beck YMCA in Vicksburg.

The camp week at Warner-Tully starts Sunday afternoon and lasts until Saturday morning. Wolfe said some campers will stay for longer than a week. The regular camp season lasts from June 1 through July 18, and then other organizations begin to rent it out.

Once the summer months of camp are over they continue to stay busy with after school programs, youth sports programs, holiday camps at Thanksgiving, Christmas. During spring break and a lot of research to prepare for next year’s camp season.