Spring Crew Retrospective

Becca SjongerBlog

Did you know that a small group of young leaders serves at Camp Mini-Yo-We every spring? For generations, they’ve shared a common goal: get the property ready for campers! With the latest team arriving onsite next week, we’re looking back at how Spring Crew has developed over the years.

Firm Foundations

Mini-Yo-We began taking shape on its current site in 1947 thanks to dedicated volunteers with an ambitious vision for creating a summer camp. In the off-seasons, they constructed accommodations, a first-aid building and lodges that still stand today. A network of churches formed committees that took on specific tasks before campers arrived. Erindale Bible Chapel, for example, put in all the docks and Hilltop Bible Chapel furnished the bunkies.

Support Crews

A couple of young men started staying at Camp in the springtime to help run church work parties. Dave Allen, Brian Maxwell and Peter Gelderbloem were members of some of the earliest Spring Crews in the 1960s. They cooked their own meals and kept warm huddled by the oven in the South Camp kitchen. It remained a gathering spot with later Crews getting together around the stainless steel-topped prep table for meals and devotions.

Building Boom

In the 1970s, Spring Crew got more involved in construction projects. Alumni Cliff Peat was a Crew member in 1974 and ‘75. His wife, Noli, joined him at Camp in the spring of 1976 – but it would be years before any single women joined the group! Former Operations Director Ted Heidman ran his first Spring Crew in 1988. They turned on the water across Camp and got to work. A few years later, teams were dispatched across Mary Lake to help build and paint the new Northwoods lodge.

Growth & Groups

As the workload grew in the late 1980s, Ken Clinton was hired to run Food Services from spring to fall and two Crew members helped him. By 1995, two familiar faces around Camp – Cynthia Heidman and Bev McLaren – were hired as cooks. They fed Spring Crew as well as the increasing number of church retreats visiting Mini-Yo-We. These groups ran their own programs while using Camp’s property and facilities. John Bradley booked the first school trip soon after.

Interns Introduced

Welcoming more guest groups changed Spring Crew. Additional staff were needed to help run activities and get the grounds ready. By 2000, a dozen or more Crew members were hired to handle all the work. Jez Bell, Year-Round Program Director, introduced the internship in 2003. These young leaders ran programs while Spring Crew members opened non-winterized areas of Camp around them. Over time, Mini-Yo-We integrated the interns into Crew.

Year-Round Facility

Relocating Mini-Yo-We’s office also boosted Spring Crew’s numbers. Up until 1996, the office moved from the GTA to Camp for the summer and then back south in the fall every year. When more staff were on the property all year long, there were new needs. Some Crew members spent eight weeks using chainsaws to replenish the stacks of firewood to heat buildings in the winter.

Making Progress

Twenty years ago, three Crew members spent their whole spring pushing lawn mowers from one side of the property to the other and back again, trying to keep up with the growing grass. Soon after, Mini-Yo-We got its first riding tractor mower! Another innovation that benefits today’s Crew is a coordinator focused on developing staff. Starting about 20 years ago, Camp hired “dorm parents” to lead Bible studies and enforce curfew. In 2024, year-round staff member Glendon McGowan will oversee Crew members, work teams and life groups.

Investing in Students

All along, Spring Crew members received honorariums for their efforts. In the early 1990s, Camp recognized that helping post-secondary students financially led to retaining older, more experienced staff in the summer. This year, most of our Crew members are in or entering university. Three-quarters of them will go on to lead Mini-Yo-We’s core programs, out-tripping and leadership camps. The rest will serve on Operations teams.

Crew Today

We’ve come a long way since a couple of young men worked alongside church work parties. At the beginning of May, we’ll welcome 37 Spring Crew members who will:

  • Run program for year-round groups
  • Open up buildings and put in docks
  • Do housekeeping and groundskeeping
  • Paint and roof buildings across Camp
  • Help with administration and prepare the tuck shops
  • Cook meals and get the kitchens ready

As a bonus, Ted has returned to Mini-Yo-We on a short-term contract and will help run one last Spring Crew. Please pray that this group will be united in their time of service and work safely at Camp. You could see them in action by joining a work party in May or June!