2021 Advocacy Letters & Statements

Provide State Operating Guidelines to Safely Re-Open Camps

February 5, 2021

Senator Mike McGuire
California State Capitol

The Honorable Jim Wood
California State Assembly

Dear Senator McGuire and Assemblymember Wood,

Thank you for your leadership during these extremely challenging times. I am requesting your assistance to help influence the release of the state’s resident overnight camp operating guidelines that are currently needed by Catholic Charities CYO Camp in Occidental, and resident overnight camps across California.

As the CEO of Catholic Charities with oversight of CYO Camp (encompassing 215 acres and serving thousands of Bay Area youth in Senate District 2 since 1946), I can tell you that the need for our human services has doubled during the pandemic. We currently provide human services to 60,000 people annually in the Bay Area through our dedicated frontline staff to meet essential needs such as housing and food for individuals of all ages and backgrounds. Our flexible response to the deepening crisis has included the quick resolve of our CYO Camp staff in Occidental to pivot from providing our regular camp programs (which due to COVID-19 have been temporarily closed) to opening distance-learning hubs with outdoor enrichment for the children of essential workers including firefighters and a school vice president in Southern Sonoma County.

We now stand ready and willing to implement and follow the state guidelines to ensure that we prepare for the eventual safe re-opening of our regular CYO Camp youth-centered summer programs, which offer the youth of diverse backgrounds renewal in the outdoors, and the opportunity to build leadership skills while forming lasting friendships. If the state determines that it is safe to re-open by this summer, for example, camp staff and camp operations across the state need to be planning for summer 2021 now during our “off season.”

The responsibility for releasing the resident camp operating guidelines lies with Dr. Mark Ghaly, Secretary of the California Health & Human Services Agency, and Sandra Shewry, Director of the California Department of Public Health. California’s organized resident overnight camps need these guidelines so that we will be prepared to provide positive, life-changing experiences to the thousands of California children who have already lost so many formative moments to this pandemic.

I respectfully request your help in encouraging the release of these operating guidelines on behalf of children and youth in District 2 and throughout the state. Catholic Charities Director of CYO Camp, Rick Garcia, would be happy to offer his expertise in helping to draft the guidelines.

Thank you in advance for your support of our camps,

Jilma Meneses

Chief Executive Officer
Catholic Charities
San Francisco, San Mateo, and Marin Counties

cc: Catherine Barankin, Executive Director, California Coalition for Children’s Safety and Health