Called “the jewel of the Back Mountain community” in a recent marketing survey, the Jewish Community Center Day Camp is now open for all to enjoy.
Having operated for 75 years as a day camp for area children, the camp on Route 415 in Dallas is open to the public late afternoons, early evenings and weekends.
“It was suggested that we get more usage out of the camp,” Rick Evans, camp director and director of community development for the Jewish Center Alliance of Northeast Pennsylvania, said of the marketing study conducted by Wilkes University.
The Jewish Center Alliance was formed with the merger of Jewish Family Services, the Jewish Community Center and the Jewish Federation, which is the fundraising arm of the new group.
The camp will continue to be known as the JCC Camp, “because that’s the brand,” Evans said.
And the camp has plenty to offer. There are three swimming pools, three tennis courts, a baseball/soccer field, an archery area, a covered hockey rink and a heated gymnasium.
Camp chairperson Rob Friedman, who recently remodeled and opened the Beaumont Inn in the Back Mountain, was a big proponent of heating the gym which also sports a rock climbing wall.
The Rosenberg Gym, named for Sam and Claire Rosenberg, will be available to area teams for practice during the colder months of the year.
“I’ve heard from several high school teams that there are not enough fields to practice on when the weather changes,” Evans said. “That’s where our gym will come in handy.”
Evans said the camp receives funding from the Rosenberg Foundation, as well as from United Way of Wyoming Valley and the Luzerne Foundation.
The camp also offers a program for autistic children and currently has 38 campers in a program coordinated by Wendy Patton and Joan Kleinman. It receives support from the Luzerne County Mental Health/Intellectual Disabilities agency and the Maslow Family Foundation for that program.
The largest of the three swimming pools is, according to Evans, the largest pool in Wyoming Valley as it is a 25-meter pool while most others are 25-yard pools. With a diving well and a new diving board, the pool goes from four to 10 feet deep.
A second pool in the swimming area goes from two to four feet deep while a third pool on the premises, located behind the former Isaac Long residence is three feet deep. Isaac Long was a well-known businessman in the area, operating a department store in downtown Wilkes-Barre for years.
Locker rooms in the main pool area have been refurbished, offering eight individuals changing stalls and private showers in the women’s area. Retractable canopies provide shade for lawn chairs on the concrete deck. Lifeguards are always on duty and a snack bar just outside the pool area offers light snacks and refreshments.
Four cabins have been constructed on the 40-acre camp lot and are currently awaiting inspection. Once that is completed, furniture will be moved in and individuals will have the opportunity to enjoy an overnight camping experience. Each cabin will house eight campers plus two staff members.
A campfire pit near the cabins and the hockey rink offers campers a real camping experience.
The camp is open for family events and a Sweet 16 party is being planned by an area family. For that, tents will be erected behind the Long house, just above an area used for sleigh riding in the winter months.
A dining hall that seats 225 on premises is now operated by the Nutrition Group of Scranton. Campers use the dining hall on a daily basis and it can also be included in rental packages of camp facilities.
A weather warning system was installed on top of the Long house last year and gives an 8-10 minute warning when severe weather approaches.
“That thing is really loud,” Evans said. “Last year we had a tornado warning and had to put all the kids in the basement. It has been a real blessing. Even the neighbors are grateful for it because they can hear it, too.”
Evans wants the public to know that camp officials are willing to work with any community group to meet its needs.
“All they need to do is call me,” he’ll said. “We’ll work with anyone.”