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Pilgrim Firs has new sign, paint, map and more as youth director puts plumbing and maintenance skills to work

Mark Boyd has made visible and practical improvements—wooden cabin signs, Pilgrim-red buildings, preventative maintenance, new playground equipment and more—at Pilgrim Firs.

As full-time staff, he has removed old, metal cabin signs and replaced them with wood signs that fit the camp setting. He has updated the camp map and put it in a central location. 

Mark Boyd
With the help of Murphy the cat, Mark Boyd put together new playground equipment.

Given that the cabin names are for pilgrims and theologians, work campers put up plaques in each cabin that tell about the person for whom the cabin is named.

“The names are all men, so I am looking up names of founding mothers and putting up plaques in Huckeberry House telling about them,” added Mark, who is also part-time youth pastor at United Churches in Olympia.

To add to the continuity of camp buildings, all are now the same color, rather than several different colors.

“It saves money to buy paint in bulk” he said.  “The color, fittingly, is ‘Pilgrim Red.’”

Now Huckleberry Lodge, cabins and South Lodge are the same color.

Mark seeks to help simplify maintenance by preventative measures.

For example, he has set up schedules for replacing parts before they are broken and cause more expensive, emergency maintenance.

When he first began working at Pilgrim Firs in September 2009, there was concern about sand in the water clogging the aereators in faucets.  So he put a sand separator in the pump house to eliminate the continual need to buy replacement aereators.

He knew what to do from his work in plumbing and with city water departments.

Another addition is an outside playground structure for children who come to camp.

“The improvements are designed so people can come to camp and be comfortable without feeling it’s commercial,” he said.

Mark takes care to schedule mowing, chopping and noisy maintenance tasks for times when groups are not there.

“When people come, we need to provide a quiet space for them,” he said.

“The main thing camps should offer is a time to get away, to retreat in the sense of relaxing and not hiding.  People come to retreats tired.  It’s important to help them relax and take time away from what they left at home or work,” he said.

Mark has helped many years directing junior high camps in the winter and summer.

“Work with youth is an incredibly important way to give back,” he said.  “Youth teach us.  We need to provide them with opportunities.”

“Pray...for What?” is the 2011 Mid-Winter junior high retreat theme.

“We’ll look at why we pray, what is prayer and how do we pray,” Mark said.

“Teens come to camp to have fun, but when they come, it’s a chance to open doors for them to talk about faith topics,” he explained. 

“Youth come regardless of the theme, but it’s important to remind campers we are a church camp,” he said.  “They need to know about what the community of faith does and why.”

So those attending mid-winter retreats will reflect on why they say grace and say prayers in worship. 

It’s up to Mark and other retreat directors to find fun ways to reach them with the theme.

He likes working with junior high because they aren’t afraid to ask questions and are willing to be honest.

“Junior high youth will probe questions,” he said.

“Camp gives youth a place to be themselves with acceptance, not judgement, and in that climate, to discover who they are,” Mark said.

Mark works at Pilgrim Firs from Wednesday mornings to Saturday evenings.  He is in Olympia, where he has served on staff for 11 years, from Sunday through Tuesday.

He first became involved at United Churches 16 years ago, coming to the church with no prior church affiliation.  He grew up in the Northwest, living mostly in Olympia, doing plumbing and other work with a family business.

He soon became involved with Pilgrim Firs camps.

For information, call 360876-2031 or visit


Copyright Pacific Northwest Conference News © November-December 2010




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