By Kathi Bliss
Promoting and protecting the leadership of the future is a goal that most organizations can get behind. Last week, the administration of Martindale’s Allandelle Girl Camp joined forces with more than a dozen volunteers from Texas State University’s Bobcat Build project for exactly that purpose.
In its 15th year, Bobcat Build gives students the opportunity to give back to the surrounding communities during the largest one-day service project in Central Texas – the second-largest in the state.
For the last 10 years, Allandelle Girl Camp has offered young women a week-long “slumber party” that focuses on etiquette, service, leadership and behavior – it’s one of few camps of its kind, and the only one in Central Texas.
Only natural, then, that the two projects should come together for this year’s Bobcat Build day, when students traveled to the three-acre Victorian estate on Martindale’s Johnson Street for a day of service and education.
“I learned the difference between a boss and a leader is that a boss tells you to do something, and a leader shows you how to do something and does it with you,” said Bobcat Build volunteer Sarah Jimenez. “It truly encouraged me to be a better leader.”
Joining the volunteers was AGC founder Lisa Shell Allan, who said there were moments she learned from the volunteers, and others when she helped them learn.
“They had a lot to show me,” she said. “On the other hand, a time or two I saw the volunteers holding their paint brushes the same way you would hold a tea cup. So I had to stop, go over to them, and teach them how to hold the paintbrush like they owned it, as an extension of their own hand.”
Most of the work performed by Bobcat Build focused on repairing and painting the fence that surrounds the 65-year old swimming pool, first installed by former Martindale Mayor Martha Nell Holmes, and now the site of the final event of each year’s AGC, the “origami boat” ceremony, where camp participants are invited to make a list of their past hurts and wrongs, and “let them go” as they sail their boats into the moonlight.
“I think that this is something that Martha Nell would have loved,” Shell Allan said. “When she first built the pool, she was the object of some scrutiny, because she promised that ‘every black, brown and white foot in Martindale’ could learn how to swim in that pool.’”
In its second year in existence, Holmes asked the children of the community, while they were still welcome to swim, to bring with them a packet of sod… within days of that second summer, volunteers had helped grass to grow across the entire acre upon which the pool is situated.
While Allan still welcomes assistance and visitors, times have changed a bit.
“Part of what makes the Allandelle experience so special is all the history [tied up in the house] with groundbreaking women like Martha Nell,” Shell Allan said. “And the partnership with Bobcat Build is something that we always appreciate, because the camp itself is run as a non-profit, with sponsorship from our corporate partners, and support from the community.”
As such, at times, she said, maintenance of the facility can become overwhelming – particularly when she, herself, is as commonly found teaching etiquette to the girls as painting walls and fixing plumbing.
Last year, though, a misunderstanding with a vendor left the Allandelle property falling short of its needs for camp this summer.
“The porches are not finished, and expansion and updating of a bathroom and porch was not completed,” she said. “And although Bobcat Build is a springboard for this year’s ‘maintenance and upkeep that must be addressed for the house and the grounds,’ we regret that we are not going to be able to host campers this summer.”
The Bobcat Build service was unprecedented, she said; while the volunteers helped her complete in three hours what she thought she would spend the entire summer doing, there is still a long way to go.
“My life’s work is teaching and coaching those who God puts in my path, no matter where we are,” she said. “And the gratitude and feedback from the volunteers was a big reminder for me, the reason and purpose of Allandelle Girl Camp.”
It is for that purpose, she said, that Allandelle has decided to close for the summer. Having struggled with issues with her vocal chords for nearly two years, Shell Allan said a secondary, but still important, factor in not holding camp this summer is the toll the daily lessons would take on a voice still on the mend. Rather than half-step through camp this summer, she said she would prefer to take the year, heal completely, and give her full self to her work during the 2018 sessions.
“We are ready to clean up, heal up, fix up, and be ready for 2018 and all that God has in store,” she said.
Indeed, the students who have been touched by the Camp in the past are surely ready, as well.
For information on Allandelle Girl Camp, how to sponsor or volunteer, visit www.allandelle.com.