MAINE CAMP’S LEGACY: The West End House Camp in Parsonsfield, Maine, occupied a big chunk of Steve Lepler’s young life.
Now 56, Lepler is the full-time director of the nonprofit summer camp for boys and is doing all he can to continue the legacy of a place that he said was invaluable in instilling long-lasting core values.
“It really is such a special place. One of our slogans is ‘Make Friends for Life,’ and it does just that,” said Lepler, a Sharon resident since 1983. “At the end of each summer, we have an alumni week for former campers up through age 90, it really has a warm fraternity feel to the place.”
The connection with Boston and areas south of the city is strong, he said. The camp was founded in 1908 by James Jackson Storrow (for whom Storrow Drive is named) for boys from what was known as Boston’s West End. When people from that area started moving out, especially after much of it was demolished to make way for high-rises, many went to Brookline, Newton, or the South Shore.
“A lot of our alumni are from places like Sharon, and we get many kids from the South Shore who attend,” he said. “Our executive director, Bill Margolin, who’s been involved with the camp since 1958, is from Randolph.”
Lepler said summer camps tend to be either “for rich kids or poor kids. We have both. It’s a terrific melting pot of different ethnicities and backgrounds.”
And one with some notable alumni, including former Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein, Star Trek star Leonard Nimoy, and the Andelman brothers from “Phantom Gourmet.” The camp’s cost starts at $1,995 for a two-week stay and runs to $5,795 for eight weeks, but it’s not a price set in stone, Lepler said.
“Absolutely, we work with people to get their kids there. We have scholarships and a sliding scale to make it affordable,” he said, adding that West End is the oldest nonprofit overnight camp in Maine. “And in relation to other overnight camps, we’re on the low end of cost. Another one of our slogans is ‘affordable excellence.’ ”
The camp recently celebrated its 105th anniversary with a “105 Spirit Alive” event at Showcase Live at Patriot Place in Foxborough, he said. The camp sees more than 200 campers a summer, and last year, about a quarter were from south of Boston. In addition, he said, many board members of the nonprofit hail from that area. There are 40 counselors at the camp, he said, and 95 percent are former campers.
Lepler has been director since 2008, after working 25 years in human resources for Toward Independent Learning and Living in Dedham. Now he’s at the camp all summer long, overseeing a venue for water sports, hiking, team games and challenges, all geared to making youngsters more confident as they approach adolescence.
“The legacy of the camp is so strong, there’s so much history there,” he said. “It teaches to strive to accomplish goals through teamwork, it teaches the values you want your kids to get in a fun, exciting way.”
The legacy continued in his own family, he said: He went for five years as a camper starting in 1967, then did another five as a counselor, and his son went for 12 years.
“The experience is so valuable,” Lepler said. “And teaches so much, often without the kids realizing it, but they’re getting character-building and social skills while they’re having a ball.”
LESSONS IN BLACK HISTORY: A team of staffers at Cardinal Cushing Centers , a day and residential school in Hanover for students with intellectual disabilities, marked Black History Month this year with an unusual project.
Staffers re-created the secret routes and safe houses of the Underground Railroad in the tunnel system that connects all campus buildings, with stations set up with clues on where to find the next stop, as well as key historical information, said Jude Morgan, a teacher who helped create the event.
“In our curriculum, we try to make history interactive for our students, as the concept of time and events are difficult to generalize,” Morgan said. “It made an abstract concept more
concrete for our students.”
BUSINESS BRIEFS: Attorney Scott J. Clifford of Norwood, a principal with Hanover-based Epstein, Lipsey & Clifford, was the featured speaker in January of the Hanover Chamber of Commerce’s “Water Cooler Series.” He spoke to small-business owners about the requirements of the Massachusetts Wage Act, and requirements of federal and state law for independent contractors and employees. Continued...