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Camp and Conference Center taking flight

Greenfield: Barbara C. Harris Center hosts camps, conferences, retreats and more

  • The Barbara C. Harris Camp and Conference Center was named in honor of the first female Anglican bishop in the world: Barbara C. Harris. The facility been used as a camp since 1990, but was purchased by the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts and opened for summer camp in 2004.

    The Barbara C. Harris Camp and Conference Center was named in honor of the first female Anglican bishop in the world: Barbara C. Harris. The facility been used as a camp since 1990, but was purchased by the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts and opened for summer camp in 2004. Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • The Barbara C. Harris Camp and Conference Center was named in honor of the first female Anglican bishop in the world: Barbara C. Harris. The facility been used as a camp since 1990, but was purchased by the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts and opened for summer camp in 2004.

    The Barbara C. Harris Camp and Conference Center was named in honor of the first female Anglican bishop in the world: Barbara C. Harris. The facility been used as a camp since 1990, but was purchased by the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts and opened for summer camp in 2004. Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • The Barbara C. Harris Camp and Conference Center was named in honor of the first female Anglican bishop in the world: Barbara C. Harris. The facility been used as a camp since 1990, but was purchased by the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts and opened for summer camp in 2004.

    The Barbara C. Harris Camp and Conference Center was named in honor of the first female Anglican bishop in the world: Barbara C. Harris. The facility been used as a camp since 1990, but was purchased by the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts and opened for summer camp in 2004. Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • The Barbara C. Harris Camp and Conference Center was named in honor of the first female Anglican bishop in the world: Barbara C. Harris. The facility been used as a camp since 1990, but was purchased by the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts and opened for summer camp in 2004.

    The Barbara C. Harris Camp and Conference Center was named in honor of the first female Anglican bishop in the world: Barbara C. Harris. The facility been used as a camp since 1990, but was purchased by the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts and opened for summer camp in 2004. Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • The Barbara C. Harris Camp and Conference Center was named in honor of the first female Anglican bishop in the world: Barbara C. Harris. The facility been used as a camp since 1990, but was purchased by the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts and opened for summer camp in 2004.

    The Barbara C. Harris Camp and Conference Center was named in honor of the first female Anglican bishop in the world: Barbara C. Harris. The facility been used as a camp since 1990, but was purchased by the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts and opened for summer camp in 2004. Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • The Barbara C. Harris Camp and Conference Center was named in honor of the first female Anglican bishop in the world: Barbara C. Harris. The facility been used as a camp since 1990, but was purchased by the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts and opened for summer camp in 2004.
  • The Barbara C. Harris Camp and Conference Center was named in honor of the first female Anglican bishop in the world: Barbara C. Harris. The facility been used as a camp since 1990, but was purchased by the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts and opened for summer camp in 2004.
  • The Barbara C. Harris Camp and Conference Center was named in honor of the first female Anglican bishop in the world: Barbara C. Harris. The facility been used as a camp since 1990, but was purchased by the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts and opened for summer camp in 2004.
  • The Barbara C. Harris Camp and Conference Center was named in honor of the first female Anglican bishop in the world: Barbara C. Harris. The facility been used as a camp since 1990, but was purchased by the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts and opened for summer camp in 2004.
  • The Barbara C. Harris Camp and Conference Center was named in honor of the first female Anglican bishop in the world: Barbara C. Harris. The facility been used as a camp since 1990, but was purchased by the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts and opened for summer camp in 2004.

At first, the skills necessary for being a good flight attendant might not seem like the same skills needed by a camp and conference center.

But, they are.

A flight attendant’s job is to host a new group of people every flight, said John C. Koch, the executive director of the Barbara C. Harris Camp and Conference Center in Greenfield. They need to help guests feel comfortable and enjoy their experience each and every time they take to the skies.

That, he said, is an apt description of what BCH hopes to do as well.

The Barbara C. Harris Camp and Conference Center is a hosting organization, said Koch. “We welcome guests, prepare meals for them, shovel sidewalks - we do everything we can to ensure our guests have a wonderful and relaxing place for their event.”

The Barbara C. Harris Camp and Conference Center was named in honor of the first female Anglican bishop in the world: Barbara C. Harris. The facility been used as a camp since 1990, but was purchased by the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts and opened for summer camp in 2004.

The diocese tore down about half of the existing buildings and renovated the other half, said Koch.

Koch became the executive director at BCH in September, 2011. He was hired because the previous director left for a new job, and because the board of directors wanted to expand the BCH mission.

For 10 years, the focus was on creating camp programs. Now, said Koch, the goal is to continue the same high quality camping experiences, but add educational programing and conferences as well.

“It’s not an ‘either-or’ situation,” said Koch, “it’s a ‘both-and’ scenario. We want to expand and do both well.”

Koch brought with him degrees in economics and history from the University of Miami-Ohio and experience. After college he moved to New York City, where he worked for People’s Express airlines. Since then, Koch has worked at a winery in California, and he’s been the executive director for two other Episcopal camp and conference centers across the United States.

One of Koch’s goals is to re-introduce BCH to the local community.

The Barbara C. Harris Camp and Conference Center in Greenfield, is often confused with the Harris Center for Conservation and Education in Hancock, and vice versa. Koch said he is extremely supportive of the Harris Center but wants the community to know that the two entities are separate.

The Barbara C. Harris Camp and Conference Center has 45 buildings, including a gym, dining hall that seats 250 people, cabins, lodges and multiple maintenance buildings. The center is comprised of 325 acres including most of the waterfront on Otter Lake.

The center employs nine people full-time, and in the summer up to 70 part-time staff: counselors, cleaning staff, camp nurses and kitchen staff.

In addition to employment BCH impacts the community of Greenfield financially through the hiring of local contractors, like electricians, plumbers, builders, et cetera. “We try to partner with and support the other organizations and businesses in town,” said Koch. For example, he said, church youth groups from other states often stay at BCH and then ski at Crotched Mountain.

Although, BCH is a mission of the Episcopal church, the organization is not exclusive, said Koch. Only about 40% of what the center does is for the Episcopal church. The remainder of the time the facility is used by a variety of non-profit or spiritual organizations.

BCH “isn’t just one thing,” said Koch. “It’s so much more than that.”

This month, for example, BCH will host doctors from Boston Medical Center who are doing work at Crotched Mountain Rehabilitation Center.

The Monadnock Quilters visited for a weekend retreat in February, and a group from UNH Cooperative Extension will be staying overnight later in March. Sports teams including Antrim Recreation Basketball, ConVal Ice Hockey and Conval Baseball will be using the facilities as well.

“Part of our mission is to be as available to the community as possible,” said Koch.

Leaders from Catholic, Jewish, and Islamic faiths also host retreats here, he said.

At BCH, visitors can ski, snowboard, hike, swim, kayak, use the ropes and rock wall, basketball courts and gym, and they also receive three meals a day - with gluten- and dairy-free options. But to protect the safety and privacy of groups, people need to call ahead and make reservations, said Koch.

In the summer, BCH not only hosts its own six-week camp program, but also opens its facilities to camps such as Johnny and Friends - an international and national camping program focused on providing camping experiences for individuals and families with disabilities — and local Boy Scout Troops.

This year, one of the camp’s founders, Rev. M. Thomas Shaw, Bishop of Massachusetts, retired. The new board met in January to set new goals for the future of BCH.

“The dioceses of New Hampshire and Western Massachusetts do not have camp and conference centers so we invited members from those dioceses to be on the BCH board,” said Koch. “We want to be a center not just for the dioceses of Massachusetts, but for New England,” he explained.

Looking towards the future, Koch dreams of BCH hosting an ongoing experiential learning program, local groups of yoga instructors or poets, and eventually even workshops on social justice that honor Barbara C. Harris’ vision of equality.

“I’d like to see this place busy with kids and adults not just on weekends, and vacations but throughout the year,” he said.

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