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Wade Zick describes life running a COVID camp

By Wade Zick, managing director of Pilgrim Firs

An update with my thoughts from Covid Camp...

It continues to be pretty weird here at what I call COVID Camp. While we normally have guitar camp, stone carver camp, sobriety camps, banjo camp and a bunch of different camps, right now we serve our community to help bring some health and healing from this damn virus. More folks are now arriving positive than in the first eight months. They come needing refuge and healing.

Tannon Siegel from University Congregational UCC, with 13 other Boy Scouts helping, completed his Eagle Scout project to build new beautiful camp chairs for Pilgrim Firs.  Don and Brenda McClure Mallett’s financial support made the project possible.                                        Photo courtesy of Wade Zick

Lalo and I are hunkering down as we quarantine and isolate from our guests. That feels awkward, safer and with a grateful privilege.

County volunteers and staff are absolute heroes who do all the direct contact work with the guests in their PPE. I pretty much do my best to be distant from them as well.

The camp provides a space of safety and health for people who are often at an amazingly difficult period of their life. One of my favorite things over the last 10+ days has been watching some folks that are here from a sobriety house go fishing on our lake every day, rain or shine.

I chat with them from our deck, and they give me updates on what they are catching and seeing. The community doctor who visits them every day continues to bring them fresh bait and new tackle.

COVID campers can hike around Lake Flora at Pilgrim Firs.

I keep thinking what a difficult time to struggle with sobriety and now being positive—too much. Yet they get to be here, and I know are finding some healing in ways I may never know. They keep telling us they love the food we are making.

A different guest had to isolate here being positive instead of getting surgery on a tumor. I can’t imagine the anxiety and fear and range of emotion.

I also know the healing space and comfort the lake and serenity will gift them in the next several days. I hold them in prayer as I can’t imagine.

I thought about how we would help our guests have a special Thanksgiving away from their loved ones while they isolate or quarantine. We we were busy and the staff surrendered their time with family to make sure our guests were well fed and cared for.

We are working to make the cabins and lodges feel festive for Christmas and the other holidays folks celebrate.

What a weird thing to make things festive as the reality of their life situation with a virus takes them away from their loved ones and the traditions they find so meaningful.

So, yeah, it continues to be strange, scary and an amazingly odd feeling of gratitude to be able to do something for folks in such a time as this.

It can feel overwhelming many days.

It feels like sacred work.

It feels like ministry. I know that when I look back on this pandemic season we will be able to say we did our best.

So please wear masks and social distance, do very small holiday celebrations so places like ours can be empty on Christmas and after, and help some family who’s struggling! It’s really tough for so many...


Wade also shared an article from The Kitsap Sun about Pilgrim Firs in Port Orchard as Kitsap County’s designated quarantine and isolation center for people who have COVID-19 or are waiting for test results

The program includes people who are homeless, or who have roommates or a family member who is vulnerable.

As of Nov. 22, about 70 people had stayed at the center for more than 120 nights.

Most have a cabin to themselves—with board games, puzzles and books. Outside, they can walk or hike trails in the woods around the lake, and to use paddle boards, canoes and fishing rods.

The Kitsap Sun article said that guests are referred by a health care provider, and are there voluntarily, so none have left early.

The camp prepares three meals a day. Volunteers take the meals to guests’ doors.

In November, the center hosted 20, the most since the first guest came in April.

Volunteers and county staff keep the center operating.

In a thunderstorm when a guest was afraid, a volunteer was there to talk. Volunteers put walkie-talkies in every cabin so guests can communicate because the camp’s wi-fi was not adequate.

When volunteers deliver meals, they wear personal protective gear—gowns, gloves, face masks and face shields—maintain a distance of at least six feet, follow strict health precautions and maintain a stringent cleaning regiment, said Rich Renner, a 70-year-old retired physician who has done more than two dozen shifts.

Several volunteers said they feel safer there than in the grocery store.

John Wilkins, 79, a retired firefighter, has worked nearly 100 shifts since April.

The article was recruiting volunteers who work through the Kitsap County Emergency Operations Center. Persons interested in volunteering can contact

For information, call 360-876-2031 or visit


Copyright © December 2020 - PNC-UCC News



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