by Jim Anderson, Family Work Camp Coordinator - June 30, 2013


Family Workcamp 2013 brought together 75 or more people of varying sizes, ages, talents, and temperaments. For many who come every summer, the week is a reunion of sorts, and campers who first came as children now bring their own. Newcomers come from all around—this year Finland and Ireland were the most distant workcamper homes. Projects were wide ranging—painting the meetinghouse/library, building a mobile shower unit, shaping a small amphitheatre and stage, further improvements on the pond swimming area, clearing the irrigation ditch, working in the garden, building a cob bench…  there was something for everyone.  We worked, as usual, in intergenerational work groups during the morning, relaxed, swam, read, roamed in the afternoons, played soccer and sang in the evenings.  All shared in preparation and cleanup at meal times. Much was done, but the camp has an air of spaciousness, time for easy conversation, developing new and old friendships, enjoying kids, elders, the friendly cows, thebirds, the dark, dark nights, the quiet.

Once called the “best kept Quaker secret”, the family camp is now widely known and bursting at the seams. But it will continue, adjusting to growth, new patterns and new directions as needed, holding at the same time to what brings many of us back every year: a unique atmosphere of service in joint work, caring community, intergenerational learning, and fresh movement of the spirit. We all seem to discover something more of what we are, and might be.We left with gratitude to one another and to Sierra Friends Center, looking forward to our return next year.




by Emily Wheeler - August 7, 2012

Click to read the Summer 2012 Woolman Witness:

by Annelise Hildebrandt, Student - November 23, 2011

Dear Woolman friends and family,

For my sustainability project, I am constructing a creative print-media journal about the power of place at Woolman, focusing on the sustainability of storytelling. I will implement a “Letters to the Land” living history program for Woolman. Through this program, I am asking students, semester alumni, John Woolman School alumni, interns, faculty, community members and more-- to write a letter documenting their experiences at Woolman, specifically focusing on preserving their memories for the future. I am hoping for these letters to be a biannual tradition that will document the rich and diverse culture of this place.

In your letter, please reflect on the time that you have spent here and what it has meant to you. I encourage you to do this by recalling a specific experience, conversation, or revelation that occured during your time at Woolman. Through this experience, further discuss your current and developing relationships with this place. It is important to be authentic in your responses, as the purpose of this project is to record both the struggles and triumphs that inevitably take place at Woolman- honesty will make this project more powerful!

You may either print your letter (using Arial font, Size 12) or write out your letter in a thoughtful and readable manner (for instance, writing your letter on stationary would be awesome- but not on a crumpled piece of paper!) Letters should be about two paragraphs to one page in length (although longer is totally fine). Please begin your letter “Dear Woolman.” After that, you have complete artistic control! If writing a letter does not see like the right format for you, other options include providing a picture, collage, poem, drawing, or any other artistic format your heart desires. If you have any questions, please email Emily (Global Issues and Peace Studies teacher) at

Other things you might want to think about while writing:

  • Your relationship and connection to the land and people at Woolman
  • What you imagine for Woolman's future- hopes and fears etc.
  • What you would like future semesters to know about Woolman and/or experience during the semester.


Thanks SO much!


Annelise Hildebrandt



by Dorothy Henderson, Head of School - June 17, 2009

What would get a two-year-old to plant seeds in the ground (with Mom’s help), a five-year-old to shovel manure into a wheelbarrow and deliver it down the hill to the garden compost pile, a 17-year-old to show up for breakfast at 7:15 am and go to work pulling nails out of old lumber so it can be reused in building a shed, a 35-year-old to cook breakfast for 50 early risers, and a 65-year-old to climb up on a two-story roof to put in insulation? And what would make it possible for all this to happen at the same time? The answer is Family Work Camp at Sierra Friends Center.

This year for the first time, the Woolman Semester alumni reunion has joined the Sierra Friends Center Family Work Camp. Last fall two Woolman alumni, Cassidy Gardner and Jesse Bradford, talked about wanting to give something back to Woolman as part of the alumni gathering, perhaps working on a project together. Those two notions, giving of oneself and working on projects, led to combining the Woolman Semester Reunion with Family Work Camp, which has been described as the Woolman Semester without the homework. In actuality it is much more.

Family Work Camp at SFC has a long history that began with work camps for the John Woolman High School before it was a school. Folks camped at Mel’s pond, cooked at what is now the Hedrick House and helped to build the school buildings that we now enjoy. The work camps have always been multi-generational affairs, with 70-year-olds and 3-year-olds literally working side by side. Some people at work camp today have been coming for over 30 years, and there are young adults here now who have grown up with this week-long work extravaganza as the family vacation.

Vacation?! How can living in a tent or a cabin for a week and working for several hours each morning be considered vacation? This is the very question we pondered during our morning work camp meeting. What is work and how can there be such a thing as a work party. Isn’t “work party” an oxymoron? We did not come up with the definitive answer but we had some musings. It seems that when people come together because they want to, not because they think they have to, they have a different idea about what it means to work. Cleaning the irrigation ditch of all the debris that collects over the year, walking through mucky water with rakes and hoes becomes a party when you volunteer to do it and your friends do the same.

Friends are a big part of what makes work camp a vacation. Friends who come back each year, rekindling relationships while making soup for the luncheon meal, planting seeds in the ever-expanding garden, or putting a new and improved roof on the Redwood house. Of course, the work does not go on all day and night. There are the evening sings with “Rise up Singing” and the late-night conversations that bring us back in touch with each other’s lives year after year.

There are always the new arrivals too, people who are here for the first time but become part of the family by the end of the week. These are folks who come from around the world to give of their time and skill because they want their lives to make the world a better place. Then there are the new arrivals who aren’t really new. Annie and David and their daughter Sophia have joined us for the first time. But Annie was a student at the John Woolman High School from 1976 to 1979. Annie remembers the Dining Hall deck before it had the wisteria covering and Madrone Hall when it was a dormitory for students. Now six-year-old Sophia has worked in the orchard, painting the exposed limbs of the apple and pear trees that were getting too much sun. Perhaps Sophia will find her way to the Woolman Semester some years down the road.

So when is work not really work? When it is done with friends, with purpose, with a spirit of giving, and given freely. This year the SFC Family Work Camp and the Woolman Alumni Gathering have come together for a week of working and playing together …and wondering about the difference.

by Your Friendly Camp Counselors - February 17, 2009

Who better to ask than those fearless, faithful, fanciful, fun and fantastic folks who have done it before! Here are a few thoughts from some of our fabulous former counselors:

“Being a counselor at SFC, I’ve found that it’s a place where I can feel good about giving to other campers what I had been given as a child when I attended Shiloh Quaker Camp for 5 years. It is a place to come to and let go of whatever turmoil exists in your life, and give the best of yourself to deserving campers who greatly take in all the beauty of being there with you.” ~ Carolina McCandles (2005, 2006)

“For me being a counselor was a great opportunity to explore myself as a role model and a friend. It helped me to develop key skills for the real world both socially and in the working world. It was wonderful to create for others what has been so important to me as I have grown up. I met amazing people and my experiences and growth from my summer as a SFC counselor will be with me always.” ~ Emily Schwartz (2006)

“Working at Sierra Friends Camp really inspired me, and changed me in ways I never expected it to. Learning about Quaker camps after I was too old to attend made me feel deprived of a wonderful summer, so being a counselor gave me the opportunity to experience the love, gifts and community that come along with Quaker camp. I found being a counselor to be rewarding and spiritually fulfilling, and it gave me the strength I needed to explore and express myself in the world outside of Sierra Friends Center. Not to mention we had SO MUCH fun being outside and seeing the world!” ~ John Stitzer (2008)

“I’m not great with the written word, but I’d like to say that I learned so much during my time at Sierra Friends Camp. It was truly one of the best experiences I have ever had. You learn a ton of leadership skills and I will always remember my time at Sierra Friends Camp, and it will be an experience that I will treasure forever. I learned a lot not only from my fellow counselors and staff but also from the kids. I think it is important to be ready to give 100% and enjoy the experience and take as much away from it as you possibly can. It is by far the most valuable experience I have ever had in my life and is definitely the best learning experience I have ever had in my life. I think that it will be something that is extremely valuable for anyone who decides to be a counselor.” ~ Ben Kewman (2007)

“Being a counselor at Sierra Friends Camp was incredible; it was unlike any experience I have ever had. I loved the creativity, the beautiful environment, and above all, the strong sense of community at SFC. I will never forget leading campers on a backpacking trip through the woods, being the ‘Morning Fairy’ and waking up campers with a silly song, doing art projects, singing, and participating in meditative meetings for worship. If you work at Sierra Friends camp, you will come away with not only wonderful memories, but make lasting connections with SFC community.” ~ Maddy Anderson (2007)

If you would like to be a Sierra Friends Camp counselor, visit our web site and download an application. The priority deadline for applications is March 15.