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Established June 2, 1997
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Charlestown Day Camp gets a new home

by JASON KOTOWSKI , Staff Writer
West Pikeland Citizens News 07/25/2004
WEST PIKELAND -- Several weeks ago, the Charlestown Day Camp was in danger of being canceled for lack of a place to set up tents and organize its various activities.
Township residents came together to make sure campgoers received as much space as they needed.
Volunteers transformed a tract of land overrun with brush and trees and with a dilapidated barn at its center into a children's fantasyland containing a wood shop and art barn, with water slides and tents strewn throughout the property.
Pickering Grove, formerly called the Ostrander property, is the creation of thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours of work from area residents. The site, located on Route 113 near Mallard Lane, was cleared to provide a new home for the camp after the death of its founder last year.
"It's a miracle," said co-Director Pam Elters.
The farm of camp founder "Miss Betty" Stonorov was used as the camp's site for the past 55 years, but her death last December forced camp directors to find a new location. West Pikeland officials gave them permission to use the Ostrander property on the condition that they repair the barn and clean up the property.
Volunteers worked for six weeks so the camp could open on time. Not all of the work is complete, but township officials said they were surprised so much was accomplished in that period of time. The township held a picnic at the site July 16 to thank the volunteers.
Supervisor William Cracas, who wore a camp T-shirt to last week's board of supervisors meeting, called the work a "tremendous accomplishment." He estimated that $40,000 in donated materials and services went toward the cleanup.
"I'd love to see 10 more projects like that one," Cracas said. "That property is now being used successfully and constructively."
Supervisor Linda S. Glaum said she couldnāt even see the creek before the cleanup because the brush was so thick. "It's great just to see kids playing there."
Providing a home for the camp was a priority for Park & Recreation Commission Chairwoman Joann Miller, who attended the camp as a child. She said Stonorov taught her a respect for nature and made her realize that it was important to enjoy the outdoors.
"This camp develops skills that children will carry with them their entire lives," Miller said. "It's a tribute to Miss Betty. Her beliefs will continue."
The camp was a flurry of activity this past week as children ran around participating in different activities. The camp's directors said the new site is more unified than the camp's previous location. The layout of Pickering Grove allows for more interaction between boys and girls instead of separating them on different areas of the property.
Camp co-Director Chris Jones said there has been a substantial increase in the amount of boys creating items at the art barn than last year. "Everyone's together," she said. The art barn and other structures on the property were constructed with donated lumber and corrugated iron roofs.
Several 9- and 10-year-old girls talking in one of the tents said Pickering Grove is an improvement over Stonorov's farm. They said the only thing that's missing is a swimming pool.
"I like the creek, but we need a real pool," said Marisa OāBrien, of Malvern.
"I donāt like the boys who start water fights," said Phoenixville resident Maris Paduto. "I enjoy swinging. I also like the counselors."
"I like holding bunnies," said Emily Kein, of Downingtown.
Camp counselors Tom Neri and Dana Multon supervised campgoers swimming in the creek and running up and down its banks with water buckets, looking for people to soak.
Neri said he was a little apprehensive about the site at first, but he's come to like its wooded surroundings and its streamlined layout.
"The kids are making it what they want it to be," Multon said.
Counselor Matt Felton said the site isnāt as big as Stonorov's farm, but it's just as fun. He also said the site's layout makes it easier to watch the children.
Alex Cavan, 8, avoided dirtying his shoes on muddy areas near the creek by walking on stilts he made at the camp's wood shop. He said he enjoys swimming and fishing in the creek.
Jones said volunteers will return to the site and finish renovating the barn to provide camp-goers with more space to play on days when it rains.
Jones said that, despite the change of surroundings, there was no change in the amount of fun the children had.
 

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