A Word of Encouragement at the Grand Council Fire 2015

Today we celebrate IMG_1391 the accomplishments of many of our children and youth. I have been the Executive Director of Camp Fire Central Coast for only a few years. I am just beginning to understand the impact our Camp Fire’s youth development programming is having on the children and families we serve.

Our Camp Fire promise and mission statement states that “Young people want to shape their world. Camp Fire provides the opportunity to find their spark, lift their voice, and discover who they are. In Camp Fire, it begins now. Light the fire within.”

At Camp Fire, that’s what we do. We listen, we encourage, and we provide the opportunity to uncover each young person’s unique interests.

Always Learning

Always Learning

We help youth become the exceptional people they are destined to be, buoyant with potential to do anything they dream of doing.

On the Central Coast, our Camp Fire Council has been known for building caring, confident youth and future leaders. Camp Fire helps youth dig deep inside and discover their “sparks,” their personally defined nuggets of potential. Youth participating in club, after school and camping programs are actively engaged and are given a voice, which helps build self-esteem and self-reliance.

In regards to building leaders, in the last two months I have worked with a past WoHeLo recipient, who as a teacher has become the head of curriculum for a local school district. I am also working with a recently retired leader with the San Luis Obispo County Office of Education who was a past Camp Fire Leader and raised two clubs, many of which have received their WoHeLo.

Camp Fire truly does build caring, confident youth and future leaders. Today, recent WoHeLo recipients are volunteering at our camps, helping with the marketing of Camp Fire, mentoring children and youth P1000166 and much more all while they are attending college.

For those parents attending today, you have made a good choice in entrusting a portion of your child’s development to the staff and volunteers of Camp Fire. Camp Fire is also an opportunity for parent to learn and give. Your involvement will aid you in effective parenting and mentoring. We all grow at Camp Fire.

As a side note: We have children waiting to participate in Camp Fire as we seek adult club leaders and camp volunteers. Please let us know if you would like further information for volunteer opportunities.

I wish our current WoHeLo recipients the very best. My encouragement to you is to; IMG_1355

  • WORK hard in school, on the job and within your families.
  • Take good care of yourself, understand and appreciate your special gifts and “give”. It is vital for your personal HEALTH and the health of our community.
  • And continue to give, learn and LOVE. This is what makes you unique and valued.

WoHeLo and Thank You,

Ken Miles

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Youth Impact Award Announced

Camp Fire Central Coast and the Community Action Commission recognized for Santa Maria Teens Speak Out Youth Forum.                

Every year the KIDS Network – a Santa Barbara countywide umbrella organization including members from public agencies, the courts, law enforcement, education, community-based organizations, school-linked programs and parent groups – honors young people for their contributions to the community. The annual Youth Impact Awards celebrate youth who have made a significant positive impact on their communities in Santa Barbara County. Nominations are received from members of the community, and all young people ages ten through eighteen living or attending school in Santa Barbara County qualify.

Youth participating in the Santa Maria Teens Speak Out Youth Forum received the prestigious Youth Impact Award on Wednesday May 13, 2015. In addition, the youth received Congressional recognition for their hard work for this Teen in Action project under the leadership of Camp Fire’s Youth Development Specialist, Jazmin Garcia.

The Santa Maria Teen Speak Out Youth Forum event took place April 8, 2015. The Youth Forum was envisioned by the Community Action Commission’s (CAC) Tracy Langwood, Joyce Ruiz and Elisa Prado. The Youth Forum was a chance for youth to share their views with community youth leaders, school officials and city representatives on various topics including safety, teen youth programming, life as a youth, and how they feel about living in the City of Santa Maria. The Forum was an accumulation of 8 weeks of study and research organized by youth alongside adult leaders to make for a very successful event. The youth advisory group also went to a city council meeting and personally invited the entire city council as well as the mayor herself.


The half day forum included an amazing introduction with a percussion drumbeat with youth expressing themselves through their photography, photo voice and art. 150 youth were surveyed on “what they thought of Santa Maria, what can be improved, and additional needs youth desired.”  The photos included images of graffiti, back alleys, homes, trashed fields, schools, sports, etc. The photo voice project gave them an opportunity to express what affected them in positive or negative ways.

A Teen Panel was the focal point of the forum. The Panel gave an opportunity for four youth from diverse backgrounds, cultures, schools, and ages to express themselves in personal ways and to answer audience questions. The Forum provided the youth advisory board an opportunity to share their voice, develop many organizational skills, and to work collaborative with their peers and community leaders.

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“The Pivot” in 2014-2015

To be relevant and successful as a leader in youth development, an organization must be flexible, open to suggestions, adaptable, meet needs with empathy and have outstanding communication with good customer service. Many adapting Camp Fire councils have dropped traditional clubs and have either become exclusive in camping or contracted after school care. Other councils are meeting their community needs by providing clubs in neighborhoods or schools, camping and outdoor education or teen programming.

Our council is working hard to meet youth development needs on the Central Coast making a pivot last year in adding new programs and methodologies with a robust menu of programming options. Highlights for 2014-2015 include;

  • Becoming Flexible: Completion of Market Opportunity study revealed networks of families completing First Five programs, home school families, underrepresented communities and outdoor learning of which we are pursuing, to grow the number of children and youth we serve. Because of our response to the study, student participation has increased 46% from the previous year.
  • Open to Suggestions: The new Thrive methodology was incorporated throughout our programming including with staff and volunteers. Thrive{ology} is the concept of identifying ones Sparks or passions, adopting a Growth Mindset (the belief that continual and lifelong learning is both possible and essential,) building Goal Management Skills (GPS), and creating the opportunity to Reflect on activities and outcomes. Our Youth surveys are demonstrating the confidence building impact this methodology is having on our youth. Nationally, Camp Fire of the Central Coast is emerging as an exemplary Thrive council.
  • Adaptable: Our very best programming is found within our clubs with the journey of self discovery in following the five trails. New clubs were added this past year under the outstanding leadership of Cheri Hess. Last year’s programming pivot included an intense effort to introduce Teens in Acton to the Central Coast. The primary purpose of Teens in Action is to support teens in exploring their sparks, allowing them to have a positive impact in their schools and communities through community service. Under the energetic leadership of Jazmin Garcia, over 150 teens, new to Camp Fire, will complete an 8-10 week community service project in Santa Maria, Guadalupe, Arroyo Grande and San Luis Obispo. In addition, Teens in Action have created new relationships with other youth organizations, schools, and social agencies.

The Market Opportunity study also indicated that Camp Fire is poised to become the leader on the Central Coast in Outdoor Education.  All camping programs increased in attendance. Camp Natoma expanded to 5 weeks for the first time in many years. Our strategic plan for the next three years is for Camp Fire to be the Central Coast leader in Outdoor Education under the year round leadership of our extraordinary Camp Director, Emily Starkie Zbin.

  • Meeting Needs with Empathy: Our Pivot this past year included our desire to serve more youth from a fresh perspective. How do we procure youth development opportunities for more children, youth and their families? Teens in Action has led us to work with youth from other youth organizations; Boys & Girls Clubs, social agencies; Community Action Commission, and schools; AVID and ASES classrooms. Many of these students have been underrepresented in youth development programs such as Camp Fire. Our strategic thinking includes introducing these youth to additional Camp Fire programming and outdoor/camping experiences.
  • Outstanding Communication and Customer Service: Last year Camp Fire Central Coast acquired new funding resources to improve our technology and communication services. With the help and guidance of Rebecca McClintock, our website has been redesigned, online registration has been incorporated, our marketing materials and social media have been improved, our data base has been recreated and our overall customer service has been significantly improved.

Camp Fire’s mission is not to look after children and youth, but to inspire them so they will achieve their potential and Thrive! Our challenge within our community is to project this mission and not be seen as only a “prevention” program with inconsequential impact. Our student surveys indicates otherwise. Our studies show our impact as immeasurable, achieving outstanding results in youth development, building community and achieving individual potential.

Through this pivotal year our vision for Camp Fire on the Central Coast is clear. Our challenge is to find ways we can financially sustain this imperative vision. Here are some ways our Camp Fire leaders, alumni, friends, volunteers and community partners can be part of the solution to this challenge;

  • Join our Circle of Friends and give annually with a thoughtful donation
  • Give enthusiastically to programs you care about; campership, capital improvements or programs
  • Volunteer and exercise your abilities and unleash passion for children and youth
  • Share our vision with others who have a passion for Youth Development and engage them in our work
  • Connect Camp Fire with potential partners at work, service clubs, businesses and foundations
  • Remember Camp Fire as you plan your legacy giving

One last thought: Our success over the past 80 years is not only the quality of our programming but also is the dedication and heartfelt passion of our volunteers. One cannot thank our volunteers enough for the thousands of hours committed to our mission of inspiring children and youth. Our Board of Directors are devoted to the oversight of our council. Our committee volunteers are the creators of our council’s future. Our club leaders and youth specialist are passionate about the children they serve. Camp Cielo and Tacenneko are dependent on our creative and dedicated volunteers. Our facility volunteers at Camp Natoma are invaluable and essential to maintenance and development of this critical program. Thank you for your service and supporting our council for all these years.

It has been an honor and my pleasure to represent Camp Fire locally and nationally as your Executive Director.

Submitted by: Kenneth D. Miles, Executive Director

Annual Meeting 4/23/2015

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What is Nature Deficit Disorder?

Camp Fire was founded during the Industrial Revolution when our founders realized that children were missing the benefits and connection with nature. Children were spending less time outdoors and more indoors or within the confines of city life. Doesn’t it sound like what many of our children are experiencing today? Studies are showing that children spend 40-65 hours using electronics and that children are experiencing less unstructured, creative play more than any time in human history.  Richard Louv coined the term naturedeficit disorder in his book;  Last Child in the Woods. Here is a brief video that defines the problems, the cause, consequences and benfits of outdoor play;

Nature Deficit Disorder Presentation

On February 17, Emily discussed nature opportunities for families with  Camp Fire Executive Director Ken Miles and Outside Now Executive Director Susan Pendergast on the Reluctant Therapist on KCBX.


Camp Fire offers two exceptional camping experiences for your children and family;

Our beloved Natoma

Our beloved Natoma

  • Camp Tacanneko: a week long, adult volunteer-led, traditional Day Camp experience for boys and girls leaving K-11th grade.
  • Camp Natoma: founded in 1941 is a rustic weekly residential summer camp located on 360 pristine acres of oak and sycamores in Paso Robles.

All Camp Fire camping and outdoor programs are designed so that children and youth become happier, healthier, more intelligent and well adjusted while becoming connected with nature. Camping registration for 2015 is now open.

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Volunteers Are Our Future

Dear Staff, Board Members, Leaders & Volunteers,

Your work with children and youth is meaningful, significant, and valuable. For some, your work may be critical for the well-being of a child or it may provide encouragement for a family. I appreciate how all of you deliver our programming and services with enthusiasm and professionalism, giving of yourselves wholeheartedly.

As we celebrate 75 Years on the California Coast, it is our desire that our council emerge as the inclusive organization that it is, reaching more children and youth with our impactful message; in Camp Fire, everyone is welcome.

Going in to 2015 our mission has never been so important. To me, to “light the fire within” means that at the very least, we enhance a child’s life to aid them in reaching their fullest potential. At the very most, our work may change a child’s life, propelling them on a path toward success and away from a path toward gangs, drugs or violence. TIA 1

We can accomplish dynamic growth from a posture of gratitude, starting even now with thankfulness for our volunteers. DSC00416 Our club leaders are invested in our mission and we must continue to support them in every way possible by providing them with encouragement, program tools and open doors of communication.

Our volunteers in Santa Maria and at Camps Cielo, Tacanneko and Natoma are partners who devote themselves to fulfill our mission, providing thousands of volunteer hours.  P1000166

Our volunteer Board of Directors guides us to be mission focused and financially responsible in our work. They have demonstrated their willingness to roll up their sleeves and “do what it takes” to assure that our council Thrives! We see all of our volunteers as our partners and an extension of our staff.

It is clear to me that for us to reach 1,000, 2,000, or even 5,000 children in the years to come, we need broad support from our community. We must strengthen and establish partnerships and collaborations with like-minded folks and organizations, starting with our staff and volunteers and blossoming out.  These growing relationships will become gateways that will allow us to serve more children and youth, obtain more volunteers and flourish financially.

My promise to you, as a member of our staff, is that I will invest in you by providing an open door for you to express your desires, I will seek out professional development opportunities for you and give you “creative” room to accomplish your goals within your programs.

My desire from you is your continued support and your unabashed passion for Camp Fire and its mission.

Too much fun

Too much fun

Your enthusiasm for Camp Fire is contagious because what you’re sharing is the right message; you are spreading the “spark” and helping our children and their families Thrive!

I wish you and your family the happiest New Year.

With warmest respect,


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