; charset=UTF-8" /> Meet Cynthia Diggs, New Pilgrim Pines Camp Manager : Connecting Voices
Free hacker tools

Meet Cynthia Diggs, New Pilgrim Pines Camp Manager

by Mary Domb Mikkelson, Senior Editor of Connecting Voices 

     The setting was DiGiorgio Farms, the DiGiorgio, California ranch John Steinbeck immortalized in Grapes of Wrath, a place of look-alike grey houses and depression era simplicity and practicalities.  It was, as Cynthia Diggs, who was born there, recalls, “a wonderful wrinkle in time in which to grow up – simple, protected, safe, happy.  I didn’t think about why all our houses were grey; I never lived in town where things were different.”    It also explains, she adds, “why I’m such a practical person.”  Family events – including her parents’ divorce when she was sixteen – expanded her education in no-nonsense living.  “I lived with my dad, doing all the cooking, cleaning and shopping.”  Work and church, the Church of Christ, became – and remains – the cornerstones of her life.

     After high school in Arvin, California, Cynthia attended Bakersfield Junior College and Fresno State.  “That, too, was a good time,” she says, spent mostly with other Church of Christ young people.   After graduating with a BA in Social Work, Cynthia decided to take a teaching job.  Not “really goal oriented” at the time, she thanks God for “the good things that just sort of come my way!”

     One of those “good things” was moving to the unincorporated Sonoma County town of Graton, where she taught fifth and sixth grade at a small Christian school which dated back to pre-1920.  Another was husband John, who had once attended the school.  After a whirlwind courtship, they married in 1971 and, Cynthia says, “the lessons of life started.”   They had two children, a girl and a boy; she continued teaching.  In 1984 her husband was laid off from his job with a long-established but soon to go under business.  It was time for “another good thing to come along.”

     Cynthia’s best friend and her husband invited her and John to join them at a UCCR (United Camp Conferences and Retreats, a non-profit camp management company) site to “learn the camp business.”  They moved to Camp Gualala amidst the magnificent redwoods of Gualala, California.  Their time there, living in a little redwood house, remains, their children say, “the happiest in our lives.”  Cynthia worked as a dinner cook.   John, who had suffered a serious injury, was unable to work for two and a half years.  “The Lord waits till the right time to teach the greatest lessons,” Cynthia says.  “It was during this time in our lives that I truly realized what grace means, what trust involves and what it takes to step out in faith.”

     After surgery and a lengthy period of rehabilitation, John returned to work at the Valley of the Moon Camp in Glen Ellen, California.  Six months later the Diggs “traded roles” with the director of Camp Cazadero in the rolling hills north of the Russian River (northwest of Santa Rosa, California).  “In my new job,” Cynthia reports, “I grew to understand that what I do best is loving and serving people, that if I have a ‘gift,’ it is that of hospitality, of meeting people’s needs.  John and Cynthia’s next eleven years were spent there.  Their kids went to high school there – and eventually married there.  They were involved in a variety of community activities, most involving young people. 

     Next came Enchanted Hills in Napa, a camp owned by Lighthouse for the Blind.  “More and more,” Cynthia says, “I understood that running a camp is like two people dancing, moving in a way to cooperate with one another.  A camp director is, in a very real sense, a choreographer, insuring that the dancers make the correct moves – one back, one forward; one right, one left.

     Cynthia is a “hands on sort of person.  I need to know how things work.  If the water heater doesn’t work, for example, I need to know how to make it work.  This has been basic to all my camp work.  At Enchanted Hills I realized another aspect of my approach to the job.  I liked being an administrator, enjoyed training people to do their jobs well.”

     As she approaches her new job as Pilgrim Pines Camp Manager, Cynthia still wants to know how things work, to understand how to make them work.  “I am also looking forward to keeping things on track and managing the budget.  Pilgrim Pines will afford me the time to be an administrator.”

     The decision to “move on” to Pilgrim Pines involved several factors – a different pace, the nearness of a Church of Christ at which to worship, the wonderful welcome by the people of the United Church of Christ and the need for experienced people to take the helm.  The flip side of the coin?   Leaving their children, grandchildren and John’s 92-year-old mother.

     What do Cynthia and John bring to the jobs they’ll start in early May? 

     “Dependability, stability, consistency of performance, love for what we do – and, now that we’re older, the ability to work smarter.”   John, who is famous in camp circles for his cooking – “his cookies, his granola, his…” has, Cynthia reports, “a passion for perfection and enjoys teaching kids his kitchen skills. 

     It’s a good way of life,” Cynthia adds.  “I can’t imagine not doing it.”

     Asked about her goals for Pilgrim Pines, she says, “for the first year, understanding the facility.  After all, if you don’t know how the septic tank works you end up a slave to it.  Knowledge is freedom.”

     Speaking of UCCR’s history of repeat usage by campers, she returns to the dancing metaphor, “we establish a solid foundation with people, become their Fred Astaire and Ginger Rodgers, dancing with them through camp.  We’re also good at predicting what campers will need before they come.”

     Future goals are more week day and weekend use, more youth involvement, more outdoor education, funds for needed work when the work is needed.  “We see camping, too, in the light of taking care of the setting God created. God created it; we take care of it, make it clean and safe.  Camp feeds the soul, offers ‘comfort food’ and freedom from worldly concerns.”

     Looking back at years of camping and forward to Pilgrim Pines, Cynthia says, “Our road has certainly been a wonderful and interesting one.  Life has never been boring!”

     Welcome, Cynthia and John Diggs!

Speak Your Mind

Tell us what you're thinking...
and oh, if you want a pic to show with your comment, go get a gravatar!

Spam protection by WP Captcha-Free