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Director finds family camps like family reunions

For Janet Malley of Bellingham First Congregational UCC, summer 2023 will be her 22nd year of family camping, including serving as director of Family Camp 2, also known as Camp Together.

Family camper reads to two children. Music is a big part of Camp Together.   Janet Mally and Erin Majeske enjoy a moment on the porch steps of the lodge. Photos courtesy of Janet Malley

She first started coming to family camp as a single mother when her daughter, Erin Majeske, was in kindergarten. Erin, now camp musician, will bring her eight-month-old son.

“We have a strong sense of community and it’s like a family reunion every year,” said Janet, who comes for Family Camp 1 and stays to direct Camp Together, which she described as an intergenerational camp where people can come even without children.

The Ford family, whose grandparents gave the PNC the camp property, will be at Family Camp 1 with seven members, including triplet great-great-grandchildren, Janet said.

“Camp Together started because some loved camp so much that the Family Camp overflowed,” she said.

Pre-Covid about 100 came to Family Camp 1. Janet expects 55 this year. Camp Together, which previously had 60, expects 40 this year.

Janet, who has attended Bellingham First Congregational UCC since 1991, is church clerk and is part of the church’s One Accord singing group, said music is a big part of Camp Together. They built drums and have drumming circles, along with spending much time singing.

Artist Scott Ward, also of Bellingham First, will be artist in residence at Camp Together. He designed the 2023 T-shirt related to monarch habitat restoration along the shore.

Janet has recruited a staff team to carry out the 2023 theme, “Transformation,” in activities.

Each year those activities including reading a chapter book together during their morning gathering and at night around the campfire.

“We hear the continuation of the story all week,” she said.

The camp has an adventure group, a play group and discussion groups in the morning groups that “provide rich conversations.”

At Family Camp I, Dee Eisenhauer of Eagle Harbor Bainbridge Island often leads classes and her husband John shares in music leadership.

With camp being intergenerational, parents have a break and children have a sense of freedom—with all the adults watching all the children, said Janet, who was born in Issaquah and came to college at Western Washington University, graduating in 1984 in history and music education. Her career has included being a social worker and teacher.

“Each year I see how long I can keep this aspect of my real life alive an I return to my workaday life,” Janet said.  “It sustains me every year.

Janet’s dedication to N-Sid-Sen found expression in her being one of the volunteer camp leaders who came to N-Sid-Sen for a week in the winter to be there during the transition in leadership.

For information, call 360-920-4765 or email


Pacific Northwest Conference Summer United Church News copyright © June 2023


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