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There is a long tradition at CCC of not only extraordinary vision but of great courage beginning on the day when Ina and Henry Gibson, ready for retirement, looked at a piece of property with a falling down building around an old chimney and said "let's open a camp for girls". And with the help and support of the Camp Becket community they built a camp which has thrived into the 21st century.
Henry Gibson was a pioneer of camping who influenced not only the development of Camp Becket but through the example of the Camp Becket program and his writings and leadership within the YMCA movement, Henry Gibson had a profound impact on the entire YMCA camping movement. But like Camp Becket, there were no YMCA camps for girls in the 1930s and in fact most YMCA camps did not begin admitting girls until the 50s, 60s and 70s so the Gibson's founded Chimney Corners Camp as a private camp but built on the same ideals and structure that made Camp Becket great. Much of that structure and tradition has remained a part of CCC to this day.
Henry and Ina Gibson, along with their two daughters, ran Chimney Corners Camp up until Henry's death. The vision of the Gibson's is eclipsed only by the courage of a young couple from New Jersey with a small baby who invested all that they had in a small camp in the Berkshires at the request of a dying man and his soon to be widow. For the next 32 years the Smith Family poured all of their energy, resources, and time into running Chimney Corners. They raised three boys who worked by their side for all of those years. Bill, Tom and Ron spent their school breaks, their weekends and their summers working at CCC.
The Smith's breathed new life into the camp program. Both Howard and Evelyn had worked at camps and taught physical education and under their leadership young women had access to sports and activities they might be excluded from at home. Creativity and fun pervaded the camp program. Camp-wide treasure hunts, Christmas in July, spontaneous trips to town for ice cream, and trips to Maine in the back of open bed trucks were all part of the fun and more than one famous diva got her start on the CCC stage in a production of HMS Pinafore or the Mikado.
On of the challenges of the camp during the early years of camp was the walk to Center Pond for all waterfront activities. From the very early days of the Smith's tenure Mr. Smith would take campers and parents to the edge of a small brook at the back of the property and say, "Some day, this is going to be a lake." And one day, Mr. Smith went to the bank took out a loan and said, "Come on boys, we're building a lake" and they built the CCC pond which was renamed Smith Pond in honor of Howard and Evelyn. Howard also built a three hole golf course during his time at camp which was located where the current dining hall is today.
Where Howard was the visionary, Mrs. Smith was the structure and discipline of camp, a critical if much less glamorous part of what made Chimney successful. Mrs. Smith was a camp director in her own right and had run camps for years before marrying Howard. Mrs. Smith was perhaps the bravest of all the family. Struggling with cancer in their last few years at CCC, she first learned of the cancer on opening day of camp but as Tom and Ron remember she went out and greeted the families as if nothing was wrong and she worked on despite her illness. Finally, after the loss of their eldest son, Bill, the family made the decision to leave CCC. Despite their grief they had the great vision to reunite CCC with its sibling, Camp Becket ensuring that CCC would continue into the future.
Jeanne Shellenberger became the first director of Chimney Corners Camp as a YMCA camp. An educator and champion of the group work process and YMCA camping, Jeanne established a structure and process for helping girls gain skills and values that could be built on from year to year. She established enduring leaderships programs such as the Aides Program and introduced progressive leadership programs. Jeanne also helped build the relationship between Camp Becket and Chimney Corners Camp and reestablished parity in the programs. Under Jeanne's leadership Chimney Corners Camp's physical site was improved and developed. During her time at camp a new dining hall, lodges, and the Smith Art Center was built creating more space for programs and making way for new program opportunities year-round. In the years from 1972 to her retirement in 1989 Jeanne built CCC into one of the strongest camps in the country and made a name for girl's camping in the YMCA movement.
Susan Irons Frantz became the director of Chimney Corners Camp in 1989 but her leadership at CCC started long before she became the director. Susan was a true product of the CCC experience and she attended CCC as a child and worked in almost every position at camp as a teen and young adult. During her tenure as CCC director, Susan ensured that the girls of CCC had equal access to all of the programs available at Camp Becket. The first CCC construction program and REACH were established during her years at camp and CCC flourished under her leadership.
Also during Susan's years the Becket-Chimney Corners YMCA changed the way it did business. Up until the late 80's the Becket-Chimney Corners YMCA maintained a winter office in Framingham, MA and directors spent the school year there. Early in Susan's tenure the camp offices were moved to Becket and Susan became the first CCC director to work fulltime in Becket. Also during this period the Outdoor Center grew, primarily using Chimney Corners Camp as its base.
In 1997, Shannon Donovan-Monti became the 5th director of Chimney Corners Camp and is the current director of the camp. You can read more about Shannon in the "Meet Our Staff" section of the website.