A Perfect Match

It takes two to make a partnership. It takes two groups with the same goals and values to make a great partnership. And that’s just what happened when the Henry Kaufmann Campgrounds and the Sid Jacobson JCC’s Camp Kehilla came together to create a Pre-Vocation Experience for 15 through 17 year old campers attending Camp Kehilla from a grant from the Butler Fund, through UJA – Federation of NY.

Garbage Disposal

The Kehilla campers, counselors and directors have been instrumental in beautifying our campgrounds and truly exemplify the spirit of teamwork. ~Robert Belanich, HKC Long Island Site Director

Camp Kehilla provides an emotionally safe environment for children with special needs who are not able to meet the socialization demands of a typical day camp. It helps children and teens develop social skills, build friendships, heighten communication skills, encourage interpersonal relationships and build self-esteem. The Kehilla Pre-Vocational Experience gives campers with special needs who have aged out of existing camp programs the opportunity to continue to grow with the Sid Jacobson JCC. Pre-Vocation participants have the benefit of a structured, secure, well-supervised work experience on the beautiful HKC campgrounds, a place they have had prior exposure to from their past camping experience. They work two days per week at the Henry Kaufmann Campgrounds and one day per week at Sid Jacobson JCC in East Hills. The rest of the time they are having fun at the various activities on the campgrounds or going on an offsite fun-filled day trip.

This collaborative program is staffed by dedicated professionals from both Henry Kaufmann Campgrounds and Camp Kehilla. The pre-vocation program was designed to mimic a true work environment.  Campers are given and asked to wear official Henry Kaufmann Campgrounds hats and shirts each workday. They have a time sheet and punch in and out at the start and end of their work day and for lunch.  Pre-vocation participants work in groups and rotate through a variety of jobs on the campgrounds such as light housekeeping, maintenance, light clerical work, gardening, pool maintenance and more.


Each week these campers are provided with work opportunities to learn and improve on new skills. It has been an enriching experience for both the campers and the staff here at HKC because everyone has rallied together to help these campers realize their full potential and learn the value of hard work. ~Lydia Belanich, LI Office Coordinator, (Liaison to Camp Kehilla)

The week I visited, campers were helping with trash pickup, sanding and staining picnic tables, light housekeeping in the Kathy and Alan Greenberg Pavilion and working in camp groups with younger children.

Pre-vocation campers are not only learning valuable work and technical skills but more importantly are learning valuable life skills that they can carry with them wherever they go and whatever path they choose in life. They are learning teamwork, responsibility,   a good work ethic, and pride in a job well done. We hope pre-vocation participants walk away from this experience with increased feelings of self-esteem, capability, and self-worth.


The program has been amazing. Our campers have worked so hard on making the garden and leaving their mark on the campgrounds. They feel really good about the work they do. ~Karen Yorio, Special Needs Vocation Rehabilitation Specialist

Part of this unique program is a group project that the campers are working on. Participants are designing and creating a Welcome Garden that will be located at the main entrance of camp and will be the first thing visitors see when they arrive at camp. This garden will serve as a legacy of the 2013 pre-vocation campers and the collaboration between HKC and Camp Kehilla.

We’ve all heard the expression “a match made in heaven.” We know this surely is the case here when we see the smiles and pride as our young workers wear their “staff” shirts and hats, work hard, and get praise for a job well done!

garden 3

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