TROUT RUN – When a youth camp and retreat center is forced to empty its rooms and cancel events due to COVID-19, the natural step was to offer the vacant rooms to healthcare workers.
“It’s a wonderful place, a beautiful place and we want to make sure it’s used,” said Peter Swift, director of Camp Susque. “I’m very uncomfortable when it’s empty. It just feels like we aren’t using our resources.”
A non-profit youth camp just north of Trout Run, Camp Susque was founded in 1947. According to Swift, the camp owes much of its support to the surrounding community, and offering lodging for healthcare workers as well as free internet access to the public is an important way of giving back.
The idea for offering lodging came from a former staff member who now is a paramedic at UPMC Susquehanna. Swift said he called him and said there was a need for healthcare workers to have a place to stay if they didn’t want to go home and put their family at risk.
“He let me know about a need that our healthcare community had that I wasn’t even aware of,” Swift said. “That’s something we could do really well.”
Within hours of calling UPMC, Susque was placed on the county’s surge planning committee and was getting calls.
Susque has two lodges available for people to stay in, and offers it’s space to more than just healthcare workers – including law enforcement. Community members also have donated ready-to-eat meals that can easily be warmed up.
But it’s not just lodging that the camp is offering. Limited broadband access in rural regions spurred Susque to extend its internet service to the parking lot, allowing people to come and park, sit in the car and connect.
“We reached out to River Valley internet and our provider KINBER (Keystone Initiative for Network Based Education and Research) just to see if this was a possibility for us,” Swift said, adding that the technology was already available at the camp and after a few adjustments the service area was widened to include the parking lot.
Families can come in with their kids to finish class work, but Swift also welcomed anyone who simply wanted to relax and watch some Netflix.
“I don’t think a day goes by that we don’t have a few vehicles in the parking lot using the internet,” Swift said.
The camp’s summer plans are still uncertain, but Swift is confident they will continue to build support from the community and offer it’s resources as long as necessary.
“As long as we have the resources to offer and the need is there we want to offer our resources to the community,” Swift said.