OSWEGO TOWN, NY – “It’s good to be back, absolutely,” exclaimed Jim Farfaglia as he recently looked out over the place he worked at for more than two decades.
However, Camp Hollis was more than just a workplace for him, “This was like a second home for me. I loved it here – still do,” he said. “I miss this place. It will always be my second home.”
The county recognized him for his more than 20 years of service at Camp Hollis. They also honored Vicki Mather and Jane Murphy who were the catalysts who got Friends of Camp Hollis started many years ago.
They were the president and treasurer for all these years, but stepped down from those roles at the end of last year, although they are still on the board.
Has Farfaglia noticed any changes?
“Any changes?” he mused as he looked around the campgrounds for a moment. “No, I haven’t, which I think is good. The new guy (Brandon Morey) said he was going to take right over this spring and not make any real big changes this year.”
Farfaglia said his dad went to the camp when it was the health camp, decades before if became Camp Hollis. And later, he attended summer camp there, and became enthralled with the place.
He remembers “the best answer I ever got to an interview question.” It came from his former camp secretary. He asked what she would do if he gave her 10 things to do all at once and had to have them done quickly.
“I was thinking she’d say she would prioritize her time. But, she said, ‘I would call your mother!’” he laughed. “Nobody, in all my years of interviewing, ever gave me an answer like that.”
His mother, sitting at the table beside him at the lakefront picnic area, chuckled at the memory.
Kathy Fenlon, executive director of the Oswego City-County Youth Bureau, Farfaglia’s former boss, thanked all the legislators, Youth Bureau staff, and others present for taking part in the 2011 Legislators’ Day at Camp Hollis.
“We have a very special reason for gathering here today,” she told the crowd of nearly 300.
“Today is special,” agreed Barry Leemann, chair of the Oswego County Legislature. “We want to honor three individuals that have made Camp Hollis Camp Hollis; a place where everybody can come and have fun. It wouldn’t be possible without the volunteers and people who we’re going to honor today.”
“In 1997, Jane Murphy was a member of the Youth Bureau board of directors; Vicki Mather volunteered at Camp Hollis as a master gardener,” Fenlon noted. “Both saw the need for a not-for-profit organization attached to Camp Hollis and helped to form the Friends of Camp Hollis board.”
In 1999, Friends became an official not-for-profit. Murphy served as treasurer and Mather as president for 12 years, through 2010.
With their help, the group raised funds for numerous capital projects and programs.
They have also helped raised more than $75,000 to assist children in attending the camp during the summer, Fenlon pointed out.
“I couldn’t have done what I did without Jim and Jane,” Mather said. “Jim is the heart of Camp Hollis and Jane is really the brains.”
“Ditto everything that Vicki said. And I think that she is just as much the heart of Camp Hollis, at least for the last 10 years. I have been honored to work with her and Jim,” Murphy said. “My kids went here and it’s an honor to make sure other kids have the chance to come her, too.”
Farfaglia started his career at Camp Hollis 37 years ago as a counselor, for four summers, and then as camp director for two more years.
He left for a while, but in 1980, he was hired into a full-time position with the Youth Bureau; his primary responsibility was taking care of Camp Hollis.
“I remember interviewing him and I remember him telling me ‘I always wanted to run Camp Hollis.’ Jim served in that position for 21 years, retiring earlier this spring. During Jim’s tenure, he helped Camp Hollis grow from primarily an eight-week summer residential camp for kids into a facility that is open from April through November of each year and is used by many different groups,” Fenlon said.
He also co-authored a book on the history of the camp.
“Jim exhibited a strong vision of Camp Hollis and the potential it offers. With his leadership, foresight, dedication and enthusiasm along with the tremendous support from Jane Murphy and Vicki Mather and Friends of Camp Hollis, this beautiful spot on Lake Ontario known as Camp Hollis continues to be a part of growing up in Oswego County,” Fenlon said. “Kids come to Camp Hollis. It’s part of growing up in Oswego County.”
“In 1965, I was on that ball field,” Farfaglia said gesturing to the baseball diamond behind the picnic area. “I hit a homerun; it was the only homerun I ever hit in my life, but that’s another story. My counselor worked with me to teach me how to swing a bat, how to hit a baseball. That homerun made me feel so good that I took that feeling with me for the rest of my life. I can’t tell you how gratifying it is to have come back to camp after all these years and give back what that counselor did for me.”
Approximately 100 Oswego County children attend Camp Hollis each week during July and August. The facility offers a residential camp experience for youth ages 8 to 14, complete with swimming, nature hikes, arts and crafts, games, evening campfires and many more activities.
For more information on Camp Hollis, see http://www.oswegocounty.com/youth/hollis/index.html